Sometimes, a fandom knows what’s up, like the time nerds weren’t keen on the Marvel Studios’ reboot of Blade and casting Mahershala Ali.
Back at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, Kevin Feige announced that the Daywalker Eric Brooks would be joining the MCU. Good times, right? An awesome actor leading a revered character. What’s not to like?! Something was exhilarating, but eh, not so much. Welp, it’s 2023, and now Variety has an exclusive report that Ali was planning on slicing up his contract amid the ridiculous drama and revolving door of writing gomers formerly known as “scriptwriters for Blade.”
The man in a two-time Oscar-winning powerhouse. He has been in comic-related retooling as “Cottonmouth” in the Marvel/Netflix collaboration of Luke Cage. (Not for nothing, but it is still a completely underrated and dope curation by Cheo Hodari Coker.) Even Mahershala Ali wanted to walk away from the process because the Blade process has been about as hamhanded and jittery as Sir Michael Caine trying to shave.
Mahershala Ali Stabbed in the Back?
Five long years. That’s how much time has spanned to get any good news from the MCU rendition of Blade, featuring one of Hollywood’s most coveted leading men, Mahershala Ali. How can Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige, solely responsible for the most successful movie franchise in history (and it’s not even close), screw this thing up so much?
Has the bumbled and remedial project management skills that brought us Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, and whatever that “Professor Hulk” crap was, come back to haunt the beloved brand? In Variety’s report, we discover the full tumult of Blade’s creative process:
- 5 writers
- 2 directors
- 1 shutdown six weeks before production
- And one of those script overhauls was going to relegate Ali to the “4th lead role” as the movie was destined to be about “life lessons.”
Wait, what?! “Life lessons?” This is a story about a half-breed bloodsucker hunting vampires in the most bloody fashion. What’s the life lesson? “When the going gets tough, the tough sucks?” C’mon!
Fortunately, we discover in the same report that Kevin Feige called in a favor and reached out Michael Green, star quill of Logan and Blade Runner 2049. (He also wrote Green Lantern, but let’s not worry about that right now.) The Blade project has been on life support for some time and it’s clear that Mahershala Ali knew it.
Jeff Sneider, Film Twitter and noted nerd sleuth, who gets it right much more than wrong, shared a damaging note this last September:
And boom goes the dynamite!
If You Live By the Sword…
Well, you know the rest.
The point is this: In 1998, we didn’t know what to expect with Blade. Wesley Snipes was–and still is–a stone-cold badass. Did you know he is a serious martial artist? No CGI. No stunt doubles. The guy has a 5th-degree Black Belt in Shotokan Karate and a 2nd-degree Black Belt in Hapkido! As Blade, he was convincing and contagious.
Action or drama, sci-fi or rom-com, Mahershala Ali is a student of cinema.
He knows full well he has immense boots to fill. Aside from the flubbed Blade: Trinity, that franchise was a strong endorsement of the power of CBMs. This is not a flurry of CGI or Tom Cruise nutbar stunts. Blade is about the depths of darkness alive–or actually, dead–in society among us. The blood and gore, while essential for this gruesome story, are secondary. Ali knows that too. Evidently, Marvel Studios forgot.
If this esteemed actor didn’t love the craft, and the idea that he will quintuple whatever is in his bank account with one movie, he would have split already. For him to come this close is telling. And considering the recent run of headscratchers and bellyachers Marvel has been flushing down the Disney+ toilet, this is a story that needs to get told properly–or no way at all.