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The life drains from a franchise

Wesley Snipes remains strong in 'Blade: Trinity,' but in the third outing there's not much else to sink your teeth into.

December 08, 2004|Kevin Thomas | Times Staff Writer

As its title indicates, "Blade: Trinity" brings back Wesley Snipes a third time as the black-leather-duster-clad, half-human/half-vampire dedicated to eradicating full-fledged bloodsuckers, which Blade regards as the scourge of the Earth -- as if our planet has any shortage of scourges. As before, Blade is kept alive by Kris Kristofferson's Whistler, a scientist/father figure who staves off Blade's blood lust with regular doses of his special serum. The last time around Whistler had moved his lab to Prague, but now it's in an old warehouse in some large unnamed North American metropolis.

In "Blade" (1998) Snipes took on Stephen Dorff's Deacon Frost, a cocky young vampire intent on world rule, and in "Blade II" (2002) joined forces with his sworn enemy, the vampire overlord Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann) in combating the Reapers, a race of super vampires intent on destroying all ordinary bloodsuckers, then all humanity. This time Blade must face none other than Dracula (Dominic Purcell), the greatest vampire of all, who has risen from his grave yet again, dug up by the pale dominatrix-like Danica Talos (Parker Posey, amusingly deadpan) and her henchmen Asher (Callum Keith Rennie) and Grimwood (the massive wrestler Triple H).

To take on this scary crew Blade teams up with the Nightstalkers, a group of human vampire hunters led by Whistler's daughter Abigail (Jessica Biel) and the brash Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds). Meanwhile Abigail's blind scientist pal Sommerfield (Natasha Lyonne) is hard at work concocting a brew that, hopefully, finally will solve the vampire problem.

As this outline suggests, "Blade: Trinity" has no shortage of dramatis personae -- or of fast-paced action. But David S. Goyer, who makes his directorial debut after having written the scripts of all three films inspired by the Marvel Comics series, might better have cut back a tad on the slam-bam stuff, created fewer key characters and concentrated on developing the reflective qualities that gave the first two films, especially the second, the resonance that allowed the "Blade" pix to rise a cut above most action thrillers.

Even so, "Blade: Trinity" has the great sleek, dark look of its predecessors and, most important, it has Snipes, a Blade as tough and hard as ever but more aware of his isolation -- he doesn't even have a passing love interest this time out.

As commanding as Snipes is, "Blade: Trinity" is not as involving as its predecessors, and Goyer seems increasingly to be primarily writing variations on the original. There's probably enough ingenuity in the weaponry and mayhem and bleak humor to engage genre fans, but it would be kinder to retire Blade while he's still at the top of his game than to let him die a slow death of sheer repetitiveness.


`Blade: Trinity'

MPAA rating: R for strong pervasive violence and language, and some sexual content

Times guidelines: Too violent for youngsters

Wesley Snipes...Blade

Kris Kristofferson...Whistler

Jessica Biel...Abigail

Ryan Reynolds...Hannibal King

Parker Posey...Danica Talos

Dominic Purcell...Dracula/Drake

A New Line Cinema presentation of an Amen Ra Films production in association with Imaginary Forces. Writer-director David. S. Goyer. Blade character created for Marvel Comics by Marv Wolfman & Gene Colan. Producers Peter Frankfurt, Wesley Snipes, David S. Goyer, Lynn Harris. Executive producers Toby Emmerich, Stan Lee, Avi Arad. Cinematographer Gabriel Beristain. Editor Howard E. Smith and Conrad Smart. Music Ramin Djawadi & the RZA. Visual effects supervisor Joe Bauer. Costumes Laura Jean Shannon. Production designer Chris Gorak. Art directors Eric Fraser, Patrick Banister. Set decorator Tedd Kuchera. Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes.

In general release.

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