Why Marvel won't make another Blade movie

If the past decade has taught moviegoers only one lesson, it's this: it's Marvel's world, and we're all just living in it. Over that time, the comic book giant has turned its seemingly inexhaustible slate of super-powered personae into the biggest blockbuster machine in Hollywood. They've managed to do that by producing high-caliber films that manage to feature the unique worlds and characters of each individual hero while still fitting into the overarching Marvel Cinematic Universe.

As that universe continues to expand with crossover events becoming bigger and more intricate, there seems to be no limit to how many superheroes Marvel can bring into the fold. That fact has left many comic enthusiasts clamoring to see their favorite Marvel ass-kickers taking down baddies on a big screen near them. Chief among those players is one of Marvel's most beloved creations, the vampire-hunting hero known as Blade. Unfortunately, Marvel doesn't appear to have any plans to bring the bloodthirsty tough guy back to the big screen, and there's more than a few good reasons why a new Blade flick isn't going to happen anytime soon.

A brief history of a half-mortal vamp

If you're unfamiliar with Blade, well, we'd advise you to brush up on your pop-culture knowledge, because this Marvel bad-boy is no stranger to the cineplex. In fact, the half-mortal hero made his big screen debut way back in 1998 featuring Wesley Snipes as the would-be protector of the human race. Though it received a tepid critical reception, Blade raked in north of $100 million at the worldwide box office, eventually spawning not one but two equally lucrative sequels. It also marked the debut of the first superhero franchise to feature an African American in the lead.

Still, in the 14 years since Blade: Trinity hit theaters, the once-groundbreaking franchise has started to fade from memory with the character receding back into the long shadows cast by Marvel big dogs like Iron Man and Captain America. So, just to keep you in the know, we should tell you that Blade is a half-mortal/half-vampire bad ass bent on ridding the planet of its no-good bloodsucking vampires; and that the Marvel books in which he stars are a gothic, super-bloody blast to read.   

A vampire rights issue

Now that you're all caught up, we should also tell you that the biggest reason you haven't seen Blade join the MCU is because Marvel only recently recovered the cinematic rights to the character. The film rights for Blade had long been held by the original trilogy's production house New Line Cinema, and those rights didn't officially revert back to Marvel until 2013. Since reclaiming those rights, Marvel has maintained they wouldn't be rushing into a new big screen Blade project.

It's worth noting that while the original Blade films made a boatload of cash for New Line, none of them were particularly well received critically. Even Guillermo del Toro's intriguing near-miss Blade II couldn't pass the ole Tomatometer test, and David S. Goyer's Blade: Trinity proved the most rotten adaptation yet. As Marvel has built its superpowered kingdom on making films that can be appreciated by both fans and critics, it's easy to imagine that Blade doesn't quite fit the MCU mold, and that Marvel's decision-makers would be hesitant to sink a blockbuster budget into a potential misfire. When you consider that a visionary filmmaker (and newly minted Best Director) like Guillermo del Toro couldn't deliver a Blade film worthy of the character, it's hard to argue with that logic.   

No plans = no movie

Given the original trilogy's critical failures, it certainly seems that if Marvel wanted to go ahead with a Blade reboot, the critical bar would be set fairly low. While the risk/reward factor for a new Blade film may have been tempting, upon recovering the rights to the franchise, Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige tempered the idea of a Blade reboot by stating simply, "We're not going to say, 'We got it back — make it!'"  

Given the astounding amount of planning Marvel has put into the MCU, that statement wasn't all that surprising. But it's now 2018, and we're still waiting for more Blade news, though we may need to do a little reading between the lines to get the picture. If you haven't been keeping track, in the years since Blade reverted to Marvel, they've also recovered rights to Daredevil, Spider-Man, Luke Cage, The Punisher, and Ghost Rider, and all of those characters have made their way into the MCU either by way of a big-screen treatment or a small-screen endeavor. As of this moment, there are still no plans to bring Blade into the MCU fold in any capacity; though as recently as last year Feige cautiously quipped, "We think it would be cool. Someday." Call us crazy, but that "someday" sounds like Blade is stuck on the page for foreseeable future.   

No room on the MCU dance floor

Statements like that ominous "someday" have not stopped fans from wanting a Blade reboot. They probably even fanned the fire a bit. Still, they ignore the larger problem with bringing Blade into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is the fact that there are just too many characters in play right now. In the decade since its inception, Marvel has populated that universe with a whopping 18 feature films, introducing dozens upon dozens of heroes and villains along the way.

Most of those characters (e.g., Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Black Panther, etc.) are major players in the comic book stages of the Marvel-verse. They've almost all crossed over into the comic realms of other major characters as well, either through individual storylines or through The Avengers series. One of the major hurdles for Blade entering the fold is that, save for a few memorable appearances in other books, he hasn't spent much time crossing over. As it happens, one of Blade's most memorable cross-over appearances came in Marvel's Civil War plot line, and, well, we certainly don't remember seeing a katana-wielding, kung fu-fighting half-vamp in the 2016 film adaptation of that story. If Marvel can leave Blade off the Civil War dance card, it seems unlikely he'll get an invite to another MCU dance anytime soon.  

Some MCU big ballers are still waiting to go solo

Still, the MCU's overcrowding problem hasn't stopped Feige and Co. from bringing new characters into the fold. The fact that Marvel didn't originally own rights to a few of its bigger names (Spider-Man, Punisher, and Blade among them) is the reason some of those supporting players (e.g., the Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, Hawkeye, and Black Widow) have been able to stand out amongst their more famous allies.

When that motley group of heroes converge in this summer's Avengers: Infinity War, it will mark what Marvel is calling "the most ambitious crossover event in history." Even as Marvel continues to bring new faces into the MCU (Captain Marvel will be joining the fight in 2019), they've still got a couple of major players waiting patiently to go solo. Two of those players are none other than Hulk and Black Widow, and they're both prime candidates to get their close-ups in a solo project before Blade gets his.  

Vampin' in the MCU?

As if Marvel's overcrowded superhero scene weren't complicating a Blade film enough, there's also the villain factor to consider. Behind Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, the MCU started out as a cinematic universe built around heroes and villains who were spawned by science run amok. The MCU didn't include inhuman baddies until Thor showed up in 2011. Since then, the Marvel-verse has been populated by an extravagant array of evil geniuses, mythical madmen, and extraterrestrial ne'er-do-wells. 

With Marvel's peanut gallery of bad guys and gals being occupied by such a colorful collection of characters, one has to wonder if the MCU could withstand the advent of a genuinely supernatural element like honest-to-goodness vampires. While it's likely that Marvel's writing team could easily bring Blade's bloodsucking foes into the fold via science, or myth, or extraterrestrial means, that would mark a dramatic change from the source material. Die-hard Blade fans may not get on board for such an arrant change, and that means it might be impossible to bring the vampire hunter and his prey into the mix.

The hard R dilemma

With so many factors stacked against the Daywalker's return to the multiplex, the one that might tip the scales is the fact that Blade is one of the bloodiest comics books Marvel has ever produced, and that's not just because his world is populated with bloodthirsty beasts preying on the human race. No, the half-mortal's penchant for martial arts, hand to hand combat, and sharp weapons (throwable blades and a samurai sword among them) has a lot do with the books' beatific, bloodletting feats as well.

That fact wasn't lost on the folks at New Line Cinema, who allowed all three films in their Blade trilogy to be produced with an R rating. Given the blood-soaked nature of the source material, it's unlikely that Marvel could produce a PG-13 version of Blade, and Feige seems too savvy to think softening the books' sharper edges would do anything but dull its overall bite. While the MCU mastermind is on record stating that an R-rated Marvel movie is "not out of the question," one has to wonder if Disney (aka Marvel's parent company) would even allow a R-rated addition to their billion dollar cinematic universe.       

A serialized slam dunk?

Of course, there are a couple of ways Marvel could skirt that hard-R dilemma if they really wanted to go ahead with a Blade reboot. The first would be to follow Sony Pictures' lead on Venom and produce an R-rated, standalone film featuring a popular Marvel character. But given Marvel Studios' painstaking planning for the overarching MCU, and their almost seamless meshing of their characters and worlds, a standalone movie just doesn't seem like good business for Marvel.

It also sounds like Feige and Co. prefer to keep Blade off the big screen altogether for now, which means a small-screen caper is not out of the question. And the character might be served well by a soft reboot on a streaming platform. With Disney announcing their intent to get into the streaming game, the Mouse House is on the hunt for quality original content. Word is they're hot to bring a live-action Marvel series to that platform. Call us crazy, but we can't help but think a serialized reimagining of Blade might be the ideal way to flesh out the devious characters, pulpy edges, and darker corners of Blade's brutal world; but again, only if that world is as bloody as the books. If not, they should probably just let Netflix have a go at it, 'cause Blade might look pretty good fighting alongside a Defender or two.   

To Snipes, or not to Snipes?

If Marvel chooses to go forward with a Blade reboot in the next few years, inevitable questions about whether they'll give O.G. Blade Wesley Snipes another turn behind the fangs will need to be addressed. After all, assuming we can agree that the original films didn't always come together, we can also agree that Snipes was perfectly cast in a physically demanding role that also featured his signature calculated cool and deliciously dry sense of snark.

As it happens, Snipes (who met with Marvel about a potential Blade 4 a few years back) is "very open" to the idea of reprising the role. At 55 years old, one has to wonder if the actor hasn't already aged out of the character. If not, it seems he certainly would have by the time a new Blade project made its way in front of cameras. Couple that with reports that Snipes was a nightmare to work with on Blade: Trinity (he even brought a nasty post-production lawsuit against the films' producers), and it seems likely that Marvel would want to think twice before bringing him on board another Blade project. Still, if Marvel wanted to continue its penchant for slightly riskier casting (see Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man), Snipes might make for an intriguing choice, though he certainly wouldn't be the big-screen draw he was back in the '90s.   

A Phase 4 player?

Any way you look at it, the fact remains that Marvel claims to have no plans to move forward with a Blade project for the foreseeable future. With Avengers: Infinity War set to close the book on the MCU's Phase 3 with a bombastic (and potentially deadly) bang, Blade fans are looking to Phase 4 and beyond hoping the hero finally finds a spot amongst his Marvel brethren.

That being said, little is known about Phase 4 of the MCU, except that new films featuring Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy will be major players, that Brie Larson's Captain Marvel will get her own solo film, and that this phase will carry the MCU all the way through the year 2022. One would have to assume that Doctor Strange and Black Panther will also get sequels at some point in Phase 4, and did we mention that the X-Men are now back in the Marvel conversation as well? With the little info at hand, we have to go back to the question of whether or not there's any room for Blade in the MCU.

Of course, the historic success of Black Panther has certainly opened Marvel's eyes to the prospect that bringing a little more diversity to the MCU would be a good thing. That might bode well for a box office-tested black hero like Blade, but as Kevin Feige remains extremely tight-lipped about plans for Phase 4 and beyond, it seems all we can do for now is wait and see; and we aren't exactly holding our breath.