Long before movie theaters were dominated by your Captain Americas and Thors, your Captain Marvels and Black Panthers, there was Blade, the 1998 movie that set a precedent for quality comic book films that has yet to be bettered. A video from Insider, appropriately titled “How Blade Saved Marvel—And Paved The Way For The MCU,” explores this topic with both historical insight and the level of reverence appropriate for any movie that stars a shades-wearing Wesley Snipes dispatching roomfuls of vampires attending blood raves.
As we’ve discussed here before, Blade was a landmark for Marvel. Shot for $45 million, the movie took in $131 million at the box office, turning an obscure vampire comic book character into the star of Marvel’s first really successful film series.
The video shows the impact of the movie on the superhero genre as a whole, tracing the rise and Batman & Robin-related fall of these movies as well as the floundering state of the comic book publishing industry throughout the ‘90s. When Blade arrived, leather trench coat flapping in the air behind it, it showed that a well-cast action movie that grounds superhero fantasy with a real-world setting could work. Marvel went on to ride Blade’s wave by bringing higher-profile characters to the big screen—the X-Men and Spider-man. It still wasn’t making a lot of money because of licensing agreements, but the stage was set for Marvel to take control over future hits, like Iron Man, a movie whose success would lead to the company’s current omnipresence at theaters and obscene financial success.
Aside from all of this, Blade was also just a really great action movie that Marvel owned. The clip points out that its storytelling—and its R-rating—were a precedent for so many Marvel movies to come, showing that a gory, weird comic book movie with a black lead character and no real romantic subplot could work in mainstream film.
Basically, this is just a reminder that everyone ought to thank Wesley Snipes for their favorite Marvel movies. Before the Avengers, there was just a simple, half-vampire man and his commitment to defeating evil Stephen Dorff by jump-kicking vials of body-exploding serum into his forehead. From these humble beginnings, a cultural empire.
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