Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Great Moments in... Mouthed Dialogue

Thaddeus's recent post on the tight Villain/Henchman chemistry between Donal Logue and Stephen Dorff in Blade made me think about my favorite moment in the movie, from the climactic fight between Wesley Snipes' Blade and Dorff's souped-up supervampire Deacon Frost (SPOILERS, obviously):

At the end there, Blade's "What the fuck?" isn't vocalized, even though the movie is rated R and has featured several F-bombs along the way. It's a great choice. The sequence is set up by Blade's habit--repeated throughout all the movie's action scenes--of posing with his back to his enemies after he has mortally wounded them.

Capping off Blade's kill-and-strike-a-pose fail, that mouthed "WTF" is a perfect comedy beat in a movie that generally takes itself pretty seriously. It narrowly edges out my other favorite mouthed-dialogue moment, Michael Keaton practicing telling Kim Basinger's Vicky Vale that he's Batman in the 1989 version of Batman.

Looking at that final fight sequence it's striking how well Blade executed the action style that would be popularized seven months later by The Matrix (and inspire scads of imitators). Effects like fluid wirework and the camera shaking on particularly powerful blows hadn't been seen much in American movies to that point.

This Hong Kong-derived style, and Stephen Norrington's direction, were appealing enough that it even worked with Wesley Snipes' signature martial arts style, which always seemed to be about 20% capoeira, and 80% stuff he made up based on watching the TV edits of 1970s Kung Fu movies. The downside of Wes-Fu is the occasional moment where we're supposed to be impressed by guys executing beautiful kicks that seem to be targeted on not hitting anything.

Blade gave Snipes a three-movie franchise and elevated screenwriter David Goyer to an action-movie A-lister. It should have been Norrington's breakout, as well--prior to Blade Norrington was mostly a makeup and special effects guy. Blade made $131 million worldwide on a reported budget of about $45 million. However, since 1998 he's only directed two films, and his IMDB page shows no credits--not even "directed TV episodes" credits--since 2005.

That was so strange that I thought maybe he'd gotten ill, passed away, or simply left the business, but Wikipedia is under the impression that Norrington continued to be in serious talks to direct various action showcases as recently as 2010...just nothing that's come to fruition.

Now, personality may be a factor here. Reportedly, things got so tense on the set of Norrington's last directing assignment, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, that the director challenged 72-year-old former James Bond Sean Connery to a fist fight. Still, you'd think that someone with proven action directing chops would be more than one insulted senior citizen away from his career coming to a dead stop. If anyone has the skinny on what happened to Stephen Norrington, I'd love to hear it, because Blade's one heck of a fun film.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Chime in!