Back in 1998, when Wesley Snipes’ “Blade” was released, no one could have predicted that Marvel would be breaking box office records with “Avengers: Endgame” 20 years later. Although Marvel only made a measly $25,000 off its first successful film — the rest of the haul went to the studio — the Wesley Snipes vampire classic provided an early blueprint for its many successes to come, and redeemed the brand’s status in Hollywood. A new video essay from YouTuber Insider traces the history of Marvel in Hollywood, and argues that the parallel world-building and inspired casting in “Blade” directly influenced the MCU of today.
Following a string of DC flops in the ’80s, the comic book bubble burst in the ’90s due to oversaturation, leading Marvel declare bankruptcy in 1996. Athough “Blade” wasn’t an immediate critical success, the future cult classic was a surprise box office hit for Marvel, earning $131 million against a budget of $45 million budget. The “Blade” trilogy went on to earn a combined $415 million.
“In many ways, it saved Marvel’s cinema prospects entirely, as well as revived the superhero genre,” Insider says. “‘Blade’ was a moral victory for Marvel, finally establishing it as a rising force in Hollywood. It demonstrated that audiences could be drawn towards Marvel’s C list characters.”
Much of the success was due to Wesley Snipes’ performance, and his pitch perfect casting as the half-vampire, half-human superhero. Much like Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance as Iron Man, the writers tailored the character to Snipes’ strengths, rather than the other way around. This would be key to the MCU’s future success.
The other thing “Blade” set up for Marvel was parallel world building; the film was the first superhero movie to establish a grounded reality similar to contemporary world. The technique made audiences a sense of relatability. This parallel world is arguably one of Marvel’s most defining characteristics today, and clearly something the studio learned from the success of “Blade.”
For a more in-depth history of how Marvel Comics became Marvel Studios, where Marvel fit into the superhero pecking order over the years, and how “Blade” paved the way for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it today, check out Insider’s video essay below.