The megalithic MCU was once a small production company with meagre box office success. The original Blade franchise starring Wesley Snipes was Marvel’s first successful superhero film. In 1998, they released the first Bladefilm to much fanfare. Critics were not enthusiastic about the film, but fans enjoyed it, and it reaped over $130 million at the box office on a $45 million production budget: big numbers for a superhero film in those early days.
Blade’s success laid the foundation for superhero films like Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man in 2002 and Fox’s X-Men franchise launched in 2000. Wesley Snipes’ Blade (Eric Cross Brooks) is a dhampir, which in folklore signifies an individual who is half human and half vampire. Blade has all the powers of a vampire without their weaknesses. Snipes’ portrayal of the Marvel comic book character is one of superhero films’ most iconic performances. Snipes was perfect as Blade, a killing machine that uses martial arts and expert swordsmanship to combat and eradicate the world of bloodsucking vampires.
Blade II is the most revered film in the franchise. It has the highest box office of all three movies, achieving an impressive $155 million. The film is notable for being directed by acclaimed fantasy director Guillermo del Toro. Snipes continued his fantastic performance as the day-walking, no-nonsense vampire hunter. Unfortunately, Blade: Trinity, the third film in the franchise, was less successful and most disliked by critics. Snipes’ character was less impactful in the last film, but the actor portrayed Blade convincingly despite the shortfalls of the movie.
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After the mediocre third film featuring Ryan Reynolds, rumours about a fourth Blade film kept circulating. In 2015, Snipes told Deadline that he was talking with Marvel about a new Blade film but that things were “up in the air.” Sadly, Marvel seemed to baulk at the idea of Snipes returning to the role. Instead, in 2019, Marvel announced a new Blade film at San Diego Comic-Con. Kevin Feige confirmed that instead of Snipes returning, Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, best known from Moonlight(2016) and Green Book(2018), would star as Blade.
Many fans of the original franchise were dismayed that Snipes would not be returning for Blade 4. Despite his disappointment at not being cast, Snipes supported Mahershala Ali in the role of Blade. The veteran action star approved Ali’s casting via social media platform X (formerly Twitter) after fans showed displeasure at the casting.
Snipes said that Ali “would do great” and added, “I support young artists, and I support Marvel in their business decisions” and that Mahershala Ali would have “a heck of a job on his hands,” portraying Blade. Marvel’s rejection of Snipes felt like a punch to the gut for many. For hardcore Blade fans, Snipes was the only actor capable of playing the vampire. Any new actor will be under plenty of scrutiny and naturally be compared to Wesley.
Ali’s Oscar status does give him credibility as an actor, but can the actor be as compelling in the role as his predecessor? Ali is a good actor, but does he have the qualities Snipes has? Snipes is more than just a good actor; he is charismatic in all his roles. As he did in Passenger 57, he can carry an action film and stand toe-to-toe with great action stars like Sylvester Stallone in Demolition Man. Can Ali do the same? Ali is more known for dramatic roles and has yet to prove himself in more action and fantasy-orientated films. His roles in Luke Cageand Hunger Gameswere not compelling enough to answer this question.
Snipes’s strength in his portrayal of Blade was the ability to play an anti-hero. Blade was menacing and instilled fear into his enemies. Snipes was able to walk the line between hero and anti-hero with ease. Ali, for all his talents, lacks the charisma and menace which Snipes naturally possesses. Snipes is also a great athlete, and this natural athleticism suited his performance as a sword-wielding vampire with martial arts skills.
What Ali and Marvel Could Do Differently With Blade
Ali’s casting could allow Marvel to make a Blade film that pleases critics and fans. Snipes was great as Blade, but Ali’s ability to show nuance and depth as an actor allows Marvel to write a version of Blade we have not seen previously. Ali could explore Blade’s personality by giving the character more nuance and depth. To show a side of Blade that is not just a killing machine. Exploring Blade’s inner psyche beyond the surface level would allow Ali the chance to make the character his own and create a fresh take on the vampire hunter.
Time will tell if Ali is as capable with a sword as Snipes or even as athletic. Marvel has recently announced that the new Blade film will be released on November 7th, 2025, and Ali has been confirmed in the title role. Snipes is a hard act to follow, but will Ali be able to show a side of himself we have not seen before? Could this role prove naysayers wrong and make Ali an action star in his own right?
Wesley Snipes starred in the original Blade trilogy.
The films were Marvel’s first success in the late 90s and early 2000s.
Snipes was in talks to return to the role, but eventually, Marvel cast Mahershala Ali instead.
Fans were disappointed with the change. Is Ali capable of replacing Snipes? Time will tell.
What do you think? Please share your views in the comments.
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