Spike TV stays sharp with ‘Blade’

Movies based on comic books have been the summer blockbusters of choice for Hollywood in the past few years. But in 1998, Marvel Comics – the publisher of many of the iconic characters making their way to the silver screen – hit it big with the precursor to many of these movies: a film adaptation of one of its most obscure titles, Blade.

Detailing the exploits of a human/vampire hybrid with the mission of preventing his fanged brethren from world domination, the film went on to earn more than $70 million and spawned two sequels. Now, Blade: The Series continues the story of the film trilogy, marking rising cable network Spike TV’s first foray into original scripted television.

With rapper/actor Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones replacing Wesley Snipes in the titular role, Blade: The Series holds close to the visual style and storyline of the films and maintains the edgy appeal of the ruthlessly refined vampire underworld. This is undoubtedly thanks to the involvement of executive producer David S. Goyer. Having written all three Blade films (as well as directing the final installment, Blade: Trinity), Goyer has a great appreciation for this world and reverently remains true to the elements that have made the films so phenomenally popular.

The complex plot involves a newly discharged soldier named Krista Starr (Jill Wagner) who comes home to discover her twin brother has been murdered. Her investigation of his death soon coincides with that of Blade, who has been tracking a powerful vampire named Marcus Van Sciver (Neil Jackson). The two team up, but Van Sciver uncovers the ruse and turns Krista into a creature of the night. She feigns allegiances to her new kin, and Blade recruits her as a double agent. The series follows their efforts to thwart Van Sciver’s plan as this bizarre undercover mission ensues.

Most of the performances are pretty respectable, except for the show’s hero. Although Jones has Blade’s attitude down pat, his version of the character does not yet compare to Snipes’ balanced portrayal. He seems awkward at times, especially with Blade’s gruff and succinct speech pattern; but given time, he may grow into the role. Wagner, on the other hand, makes an amazing first impression as the conflicted Krista, torn between the human and vampire worlds. Beautiful and charismatic, she commands the screen whenever she appears, often upstaging Blade himself. Meanwhile, Jackson makes a fine villain, and Jessica Gower and Nelson Lee are well cast as Van Sciver’s sadistic henchwoman and Blade’s good-natured assistant, respectively.

The serialized storyline seems intriguing enough, and Goyer promises that future episodes will reveal more of Blade’s past and feature other characters from the films as well. Although Blade: The Series has a somewhat restricted budget, its creators maintain the effects of the films by devoting much of the screen time to the plot’s dramatic elements. Despite the fact that only a couple of episodes have aired, seeds have been planted to carry the plot through all thirteen episodes of the show’s first season.

Although it has been a remarkable success thus far, Blade: The Series still needs time to mature. However, given the short amount of time it has been on the air, the show certainly holds promise. Hopefully, fans of the films will tune in as Blade’s adventures unfold, providing Spike TV the opportunity to develop into the hit network it’s destined to become.

Grade: B

Blade: The Series airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Spike TV. It’s also available on iTunes for $1.99 per episode.