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Blade: The Series – a reappraisal 6 August 2009

Posted by jordanfarley in TV Review.
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There aren’t many shows that have made the transition from TV to film successfully and even fewer that have gone the other way (Buffy and Stargate being the two most obvious examples). But while history will no doubt bundle Blade: The Series (B:TS) in with the likes of The Crow: Stairway to Heaven as the shows that never should have been, B:TS is more than worthy of reappraisal for the way it successfully expanded upon an established universe without simply trying to replicate the movies on the small screen and delivered 13 episodes with a satisfying, and at times genuinely exciting, story arc.

First the positives. A charisma vacuum he may be but Sticky Fingaz actually isn’t too bad as Blade on a budget. His delivery is mostly terrible (though the banter with Whistler replacement Shen is brilliant), and his fighting style is more akin to bar room brawler than martial arts, but he certainly looks the part and cuts an imposing figure. The same can be said for most of the ensemble cast. None of them exhibit much of an ability to act (in fact most of them are terrible, in particular Jessica Gower’s Chase) but they’re all perfectly watchable in that gloriously over the top direct-to-DVD kind of way.

The series’ greatest success is its story arc and the seemingly baffling choice to make Blade simply part of the narrative rather than its focus. While the Aurora Virus story may just be the bastard love child of Frost’s plan to dispose of the pure bloods from Blade1 and the Daystar Virus from Blade Trinity,the politics and infighting between the 12 vampire houses proves to be surprisingly engaging and something which clearly could have been expanded upon in future series. There are more twists and turns than you would expect for a series based on a trilogy of action movies and more than a few brilliant sub-plots (in particular the fate of Krista’s family and the Van Sciver/Damek flashback).

Unfortunately however this is Blade on a budget and it shows. The sets consist largely of dark warehouses and the occasional nightclub, very rarely do we ever get the sense this is happening in a recognisable world. When special effects are used they are uniformly awful, though the makeup holds up much better than the CGI and the directors do a good job of keeping effects just out of shot wherever possible without being intrusive. The direction overall however is bland and generic, closer to Trinity than Blade 1 or 2,which their extremely talented directors (Steven Norrington and Guillermo Del Toro) imbued with a remarkable and unique sense of style. It’s refreshing however to see a TV series that doesn’t pull its punches with a well deserved 18 rating the result of copious levels of gory violence and the swear-tastic dialogue.

It takes a while to get going and seems to jump from one story line to another all too often (what the hell happened to Boone after episode 5 for example?) but it builds to a thrilling climax and ends on a cliffhanger that will leave you thirsty for more. With a bigger budget and better casting there’s no doubt the makers of B:TS could have had a hit on their hands with a series that, remarkably, managed to form its own identity as a political thriller within an established, action orientated, world. The networks really need to give the underdogs a chance sometimes.

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