Article by Mike Finkelstein
What is "Blade"?
Blade is about a vampire-like person trying to rid the Earth of vampires. Although the series plays a little fast and loose with some parts of vampire lore (which we shall touch upon in a bit), if you know anything about vampires, you won't feel too out-of-touch watching this series.
Silver Screen: Not the Comics
Before we continue onwards into our overview of all things Cinematically Blade, it is worth noting that the Blade series of movies originates from a series of Marvel comic books. In this article, we aren't touching upon the comics, though. They have their own continuity (which stretches back into the 1970s, when Blade was a character in the comic book series Tomb of Dracula), and the character of Blade has had cross-overs with a variety of other Marvel superheroes.
As anyone that has delved into the multi-decade history of comics can tell you, trying to track all continuities of any major series can lead to several books worth of notes. While I'm not discounting the possibility of comic book Geek 101 for Blade, I'd hazard that most people that start reading the Blade series at this point are doing so because they saw one, or more, of the movies.
This article here will help you get up to speed on the major ideas and plot points in case you want to know more about the series before watching any parts of it, or in case you know someone that's really into the series, and you want to understand some of the stuff they're talking about.
Who is Blade?
As touched upon above, Blade is sort-of like a vampire. When his mother was pregnant, she was attacked by vampires. For whatever reason, the vampires didn't kill her -- she was rushed to the hospital (by someone, cops presumably), but died on the operating table. The son she was carrying, Blade, was delivered alive (but, as we learn, carrying a part of the vampirisitic blood-borne virus).
He has the "hunger", the need to feed on the blood of humans. Growing up, this was controlled by his father through injections of blood from hospitals. These, however, didn't cure the hunger, and eventually the boy would escape (a few times, we eventually learn) to feed on the living.
As an adult, Blade controls the hunger through the use of a serum -- a blue fluid he "consumes" that gives him the needed (I have to assume) nutritional supplements and blood-like particles that allow him to live and not eat people. We never see him eat anything in the whole series, so a guess that the serum acts like blood in many ways doesn't seem entirely out of line.
All Our Strengths, None of Our Weaknesses
Blade inherited the speed and strength (and, in part, the healing powers) of vampires. He doesn't however, have any of the the weaknesses -- most importantly, he has no weakness to daylight. For this reason, the vampires call him the "Daywalker".
What are Vampires?
Vampires in the Blade series are not entirely unlike the classic vampires many of us are used to. They have fangs (all the time, not the fanged, demon face that the Buffy television series popularized), drink blood, and have many of the weaknesses vampires are supposed to. They will:
- catch fire in sunlight
- burn when in contact with garlic
- burn when in contact with holy water
Added to that list is silver, which also burns them when in contact. Silver is actually the primary way Blade disposes of vampires. He has silver stakes, a silver "Batarang" (a sharpened boomerang-like-object that always reminded me of a Batarang), silver bullets, and a silver-steel sword. Wooden stakes could potentially do the trick, but Blade always goes with silver (the fact that it will burn them even if the initial shot is non-fatal is probably the reason for that).
For those that are curious, silver is an accepted vampiric weakness in modern vampire lore -- it's not just Blade that uses it.
Vampires in the Blade series have their own, quite large, underground society. One way to think of it is like a blood sucking civilization layered over top of the human world: humans will see vampires (or their Familiars) walking around, but they won't know the people are anything other than humans. I mean, really, vampires don't exist, right?
Vampire culture is three tiered: there are the Pure Bloods -- those who become vampires from the mating of two vampires (and the eventual birth from that coupling); there are the Half-breeds -- one who are made from vampire bites and blood; and, there are the Familiars -- humans who serve vampires.
The Pure Bloods run vampire society. They rule the vampire world, and all other vampires serve them. It is touched upon that there is a hierarchy among the pure-bloods. As is revealed in the Blade television series, all vampires belong to various houses (such as the house of Chthon, the house that serves as the focus of the television series). Each house has a leader (presumably the one who founded the house centuries ago, if they're still alive) and then some kind of governing board -- although none of this is explored in any descriptive detail. Presumably we would have learned more about this if the show had lasted longer than a season.
Half-breeds are little better than scum to the Pure Bloods, although they are like gods to the Familiars. Half-breeds end up doing all the dirty work for the Pure Bloods -- meaning that most vampires that humans encounter are the Half-breeds.
Familiars are the servants of the vampires. Their end goal is to become vampires -- which the Half-breeds (and sometimes Pure Bloods) dangle in front of these humans for as long as possible (until they either finally let the Familiar become a vampire, or, more often, kill the human and move on to a new servant). Each familiar is branded with a mark (a glyph) to designate which house (or, very rarely, solitary vampire) they belong to.
Of note, Familiars have worked their way into just about every part of modern society. Police officers and government officials have shown themselves to be Familiars.
The vampire glyphs pop up in several ways across the series. Not only are they the marks of the vampire houses, but they are also the words (probably words and not letters, as one glyph can represent a house, a vampire, or a concept) of the vampire language.
Of note, the vampire language has evolved over the centuries. In the first Blade movie, a Half-breed, Frost, uses a computer program to decipher ancient scrolls written in the vampire language. He could have been using the computer to translate the language because the Pure Bloods don't teach the Half-Breeds the language, but as the glyphs are an integral part of all vampire society, the assumption can be made that there's at least two major forms of the language: the modern form, which all vampires can read, and the ancient form, that most all vampires have forgotten (or never learned) how to read.
How to Become a Vampire
Vampirism is carried in the blood. It's a blood-borne disease, passed through the exchange of fluids, namely saliva or blood (other bodily fluids could, presumably, work as well, but that's never shown -- whether that's to the detriment of the series is an argument for another day). The best, and most assured way of making a human into a vampire is through the exchange of blood, most specifically through an injection of vampire blood directly into the human's bloodstream (having a human feed on vampire blood isn't as likely to succeed).
The other, necessary, part in the creation of a vampire is that the human then has to die. This is illustrated in the television series when one of the main characters (Krista Starr) is turned into a vampire: after a blood injection, the vampires throw her off the top of a very tall building.
The death is an important step. Before the human dies, it is theoretically possible to cure the human of the disease, thus making the vampire blood/saliva/whatever moot. However, after death it is much harder to be cured (to be brought back as a human) -- although not impossible (see Blade Trinity).
Blade versus the Vampires
Blade is the boogeyman of the vampires. When they awaken in their coffins in the middle of the day, he's the frightening monster they think is right outside (although, to be fair, vampires are never shown to sleep in coffins in the series -- one does sleep in a pool of blood, but maybe that's just the vampiric form of a jacuzzi). Vampires spend a lot of resources trying to find ways to improve themselves (build a better vampire) so as to nullify the weapons Blade uses against them. Although the vampires would love to have Blade dead, he'd been around long enough that it seems like the vampires have just learned he's never going away (they'll never kill him) so they have to find a way to work around him.
Friends Helping Friends
Blade doesn't go at the vampires alone, though. There are a few people, over time, that aid Blade in the fight against the undead.
Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson in the movies) started fighting vampires years before he met up with Blade. He used to have a wife and child, but the vampires killed them. Whistler, of course, vowed revenge and took up the stake. Once he joined with Blade, he took on the mentorship role (sorta like Splinter for the TMNT) as well as weapons techie. He made the coolest of the cool toys for Blade.
In the first movie Whistler appears to die -- taking his own life when he was bitten in a vampire attack on Blade's HQ. By the second movie it's revealed that Whistler was alive, in captivity, a prisoner of the vampires. He's freed by Blade and, once it's proven that he isn't going to turn into a bloodsucker, he rejoins the team.
Of course, in the third movie, he dies again, so maybe it's all a moot point.
Dr. Karen Jenson
Karen is a doctor Blade saves in the first flick. She is bitten by vampires, but is able to arrest the disease with some medical bloodwork. Although she isn't able to cure Blade of his vampiric tendencies, she is able to amp his serum to make it more effective.
Scud (no last name, played by Norman Reedus) took over the tech duties after Whistler appeared to die. He's a prominent figure in the second movie (where he also first appears). He butts heads with Whistler once Whistler returns -- they had different methodologies. By the end of the flick he did earn Whistler's respect.
Of course, by the end of the movie it's revealed that Scud is actually a familiar... and then he gets blown up. Don't get too attached to him.
Again, another Whistler style character. He is the role of tinker and confidant for Blade in the TV series. And, unlike the other characters in the Whistler vein, he doesn't meet a tragic end. Hurrah.
Krista was a soldier in the Iraq War. When she came back from her deployment, though, she finds her brother is dead (she takes this hard, as they were very close). She goes after the people responsible -- who just so happen to be vampires.
Needless to say, they aren't pleased that she meddles in their affairs, but instead of just killing her, they turn her. Blade, seeing an opportunity, teams with Krista, helping her to control her hunger (with serum) and turning her into a double agent.
The Night Stalkers
The Night Stalkers are a team of vampire hunters -- or, really, several teams. Mentioned in Blade Trinity, the Night Stalkers are a group of vampire hunting "cells" each working independently of each other -- with the goal being that if one group is attacked and destroyed, several others will move in to pick up the slack.
The team of Night Stalkers that Blade works with is headed by two people: Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds) a sarcastic, charismatic gent who use to be a vampire (presumably cured by the Night Stalkers); and, Abigail Whistler (Jessica Beil), Abraham Whistler's daughter from another relationship (not the one that ended when vampires killed his wife and child). These two do the brunt of the vampire fighting for the team, with the other members of the team doing the "Whistler"-style chores.
Although Hannibal and Abigail survive the movie, the rest of the team isn't so lucky. Had Blade Trinity done better in theaters, there would have been a spin-off with these two characters (it didn't, so that movie never materialized).
Those Who Oppose Them
The series hasn't had many strong leads in the villain roles (more a fault of the script than the actors), but there have been a couple of stand out characters that are worth mentioning.
Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) is a Half-breed with delusions of grandeur. He works out a way (in Blade) to gain exceptional power through an arcane ritual using Blade's blood (and the sacrifice of several Pure Bloods). It makes him even more immortal than normal vampires, but not 100% god-like (as we see by the end of the movie). Considering the end he meets, it's doubtful he'll ever return.
Marcus Van Sciver
In the House of Chthon, the Chicago operations are run by Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson), a half-breed with a keen business sense. He is empowered by the House's ruling body to find a way to make vampires immune to all the normal weaknesses (silver, garlic, sunlight). Although marginally successful, he also has a second, secret goal:
Not unlike Deacon Frost, Marcus feels like the Pure Bloods aren't anything special -- just being Pure Blooded doesn't make you any better than any other vampire. His real plan is the engineering of a plague that effects only the Pure Bloods and not the Half-breeds. He's actually successful in the goal, and wipes out the rules board of the vampire houses.
(Sadly, we never get to see the consequences of this action, as the show was canceled before it was able to get a second season.)
Yes, even Dracula has managed to appear in the Blade series (Blade Trinity, played by Dominic Purcell). He's not actually Dracula, or really, his character is more than just Dracula. Dracula was the first vampire, the oldest and most powerful. His physical makeup is different, stronger. He's able to take any humanoid shape, regenerate at "blink-and-you-miss-it" speeds, craft his own armor from his body, fight harder, jump higher, run faster, and is generally immune to everything the "lesser" vampires are weak against.
Dracula was but one of his names, and he has appeared, time and again, throughout history. Known as Drake, he comes into the fight against Blade when the lesser vampires dig him up from his restful grave (he must have grown tired of the world and retreated from it). Sensing a real challenge (something he hasn't had in a while), he takes up the fight and proves to be the most formidable opponent Blade will ever face.
Of note, there is one good reference to the fact that, in comics, Blade has fought Dracula before -- a copy of "The Tomb of Dracula" is displayed when the Night Stalkers are talking about Dracula. It's a cool touch, and about the only time comic continuity is ever referenced in the series.
The Blade series is a weird fit in Vampire-Geek culture. It's not campy enough for the classics purists, nor is it "hardcore" enough for the gore hounds. It's also much less about vampires than it is about the hunter, which many might not care for. Those looking for superhero action and interesting fights will find nothing to complain about (at least in those categories), but those looking to take a bite (ha ha) out of meatier cinematic fare will probably want to look elsewhere.