How does one define a "bad movie"? What are the qualities that separate the Citizen Kanes from The Rooms of this world? Maybe it's poor acting, where the players involved either don't care or don't seem to understand the roles they've been given; perhaps it's a shoddy script, where events don't properly link together and the characters just seem to go from place to place for no real reason; or could it be cinematography, where a director just can't frame the action or pace things in a way that keeps us engaged? You could probably list any number of things, down to shoddy visuals or a messy soundtrack that keeps you from enjoying a film the way the creators intended.
Blade: Trinity is a movie often slung into the schlock bins of movie retailers, with aggregate scores not even half of what its predecessors pull in. Yet, when viewed in full, it's hard to see where issue can really be taken — especially given the amazing struggles the cast and crew had to overcome, and the hidden talent it revealed to the world.
So, let's start with the easiest one to tackle: How's the acting? Well, Trinity has a slew of big names with some choice indie actors and actresses mixed in, by writer/director David S. Goyer's request. And it's hard to say that any of them are wrong for their parts. Obviously Wesley Snipes kills (no pun intended) as Blade, to the point that you can tell he just wholly embodies the Daywalker at this point in his career. Kris Kristofferson also shines in his return as Whistler, and all of the cast remarked on what a joy it was to work with such a graceful and legendary talent. Then you have your newcomers like Jessica Biel playing Abigail Whistler — a role, it turns out, Goyer actually gender-swapped early in production just to be more inclusive in the casting — and Ryan Reynolds in his first action movie turn as the ex-vampire Hannibal King. The two of them really create the heart and soul of this film, embodying the tone Goyer and company were looking to instill into this last piece of the trilogy.
And that's to say nothing of cameos from the likes of Patton Oswalt as weapons guru Hedges or Parker Posey as the vampire leader Danica Talos, whose charismatic turns always steal the scene in the most delightful ways. In fact, Reynolds mentions in the commentaries of the Unrated Cut DVD that Posey was "out of her skull in just the best way" on set, and when comparing her to the leading man, said, "Wesley was so serious, and she had no boundaries on that." Honestly, I think that really comes through in their performances — all of the supporting cast truly appear to be enjoying themselves and giving their all.
But what of the man behind the camera? Surely he let us down. Well, no, David Goyer is an industry veteran, and wrote the script for all three of the #Blade movies. And while this was his first time filming one of them, I wouldn't say he made a noticeable amount of mistakes for his sophomore shoot (his only previous film being 2002's Zig Zag). Not only that, but Blade: Trinity is a finely paced film; it opens on an interesting beat with the excavation, goes right into an action beat with the street chase for Blade, into the introduction of Abigail (which is one of the best scenes in the entire movie — let's be 100% honest with each other here). Really, I can only find a few pieces of drag, and that's even watching the 2-hour uncensored version! I mean, it's not up to par with del Toro's run on Blade II, but it's still a witty little outing that knows what it wants to be and gets at it.
And that vision? Well, Goyer wanted Blade: Trinity to be more of a B-movie style action-comedy than the previous entries. That's where you get the ridiculousness of Danica's character, the vampire dogs, Hannibal's riffing jokes, and more over-the-top action than previous entries. Biel mentions in the commentary how the film was made to be "fun and funny," and she, Goyer, and Reynolds all reminisce about how much improv was done on the set, allowing them to really add some more natural fluidity to some of the scenes.
Now, you may be saying, "Hey! I don't need hokey jokes in my R-rated vampire hunter movie!" but take a step back, friend. For one, it's a comic book vampire hunter. Chill. And two, have you watched Blade and Blade II recently? Those movies are ridiculous! And you can tell David S. Goyer had written comedy into those from the beginning. So with this last outing, it's clear he wanted to just dial both the action and the laughs up a bit, to really play up the absurdity, and I find that he was able to do both while dancing a fine razor's edge. The film never falls too far into laughing at itself, but also never takes itself too seriously — well, except maybe outside of the idea of casting Dominic Purcell as Dracula. I swear, guy looks like a Backstreet Boys reject, not the "Progenitor of the Vampire Race." You win that one, haters!
Now all of this gets even more impressive once you know the story behind it all. Because boy, oh boy, was Blade: Trinity a troubled film. You see, at first, Goyer wrote a much darker script for a different director. He envisioned a world in which vampires had taken over, and virtually all of humanity were cattle, enslaved to their blood-sucking masters, or completely wiped out, and Blade was their last hope of striking back. But that was too dark, so he re-wrote it.
Then the big hit: Snipes got the original director fired.
You see, Snipes had a lot of pull with the production company, and when he voiced his opinion strongly enough, he got the first guy canned. So the top brass put their screenwriter, David S. Goyer, in the hot seat. This wasn't to the star's liking, either, but he was told to deal with it, at this point, and that's where the madness began. In an interview on the Pete Holmes Show in May of 2014, Patton Oswalt recounted the story, saying "Wesley Snipes was going crazy, and he wouldn't come out of his trailer, and he would only answer to the name Blade. And after a while, he would communicate with Post-Its, and he would give [them] to the director, and each one he would sign, 'Blade.'" Talk about method acting!
There are many accounts of how abrasive and uncooperative Snipes could be. Even in the commentary track of the film, though the trio never explicitly aired their grievances with the leading man, there were several times when they obviously allude to tensions on set between him and other actors. Goyer often remarks on how they had to digitally edit him into certain scenes, and as one reporter, Chris Parry, mentions in his article "Drugs, Stand-Ins, Mood Swings and Legal Action: The Real Wesley Snipes": "Wesley Snipes' stand-in was in more of Blade: Trinity than Snipes himself was."
Still, the cast and crew made the best of a bad situation. You can tell just by listening to them talk about the movie that they really enjoyed their time making it, and Goyer himself seemed keenly aware of his team's needs. Reynolds remarks that, "every time David came up against a roadblock, he made it better," and Biel adds that the director "never lost [his] cool." It's an accomplishment worthy of sainthood, when set against everything the crew had to put up with. But it made them all the more creative, as Oswalt told AV Club in a now-famous 2012 interview:
"A lot of the times that Ryan Reynolds had were just a result of Wesley not being there. We would all just think of things for him to say and then cut to Wesley's face not doing anything because that's all we could get from him."
Maybe I'm being a bit biased — I mean, I'm sure that's a thought still bouncing around your head — in declaring Blade: Trinity a good movie. To be fair, this was my entry into the Blade series, and I saw it when I was a Junior in high school, so the flashy action and zippy dialogue got to me easily. Hell, it was the first non-Nerdcore album I learned to rap to! But there's another layer of importance to Blade: Trinity that makes it dear, not only to me, but should hold it in higher regard for many readers as well.
You see, Blade: Trinity was the world's introduction to Ryan Reynolds as an action star. Blade: Trinity was Ryan Reynolds's introduction to #Deadpool.
Yes, that's right folks! When Reynolds walked on to the first day of filming for Trinity, he did so with a stack of comic books in hand: Tomb of Dracula, the very inception of the Blade character (according to Goyer in the DVD commentaries). However, as he mentioned in an interview for the 2016 issue of Empire Magazine, Ryan was first given a collection of Deadpool comics by a studio executive while working on the final Blade installment. According to the actor, he was told that he was "essentially playing this guy anyway" and "maybe he should play him for real."
And with that, Reynolds's quest to bring the Merc with a Mouth to the big screen was born! "I pored through the comics and realized that this character occupies a space in the comic-book universe that nobody else does," Ryan said in the interview, and it's clear how much of that blabbermouth style came through in his portrayal of Hannibal King.
Is Blade: Trinity a perfect movie? By no means. But I wouldn't say it's worthy of the 25% it's garnered on Rotten Tomatoes either. It's a solid action flick that also delivers the laughs, with a great cast and a killer soundtrack (did I mention it was arranged by and highlights RZA and several other ex-Wu Tang members? And it was one of the early works of Ramin Djawadi, known for scoring some things you might have heard of like, I don't know... Pacific Rim, Westworld, and Game of Thrones). Add that to the wild production story and the fact that it provided the genesis for the phenomenal Deadpool film, and it's hard to argue that Blade: Trinity didn't do a hell of a lot with what it was given. So, next time you find yourself with a couple of spare hours and an itch for a bit of bloody action, why not give it another try? You might just find something a little more worth sinking your teeth into.
Do you actually love Blade: Trinity?
(Sources: Blade: Trinity (unrated cut) DVD commentary, The Pete Holmes Show, Den of Geek, Indiewire, Chris Parry's "Drugs, Stand-Ins, Mood Swings and Legal Action: The Real Wesley Snipes," hosted on eFilmCritic, AVClub, Empire Magazine, Febuary 2016)