Blade confronts the ultimate vampire, and geeks everywhere rejoice

They walk among us. They resemble people, approximate our words and actions, present themselves more or less as human. And yet they are more -- a different species, with their own dark legends, their own clandestine meeting places. They are dorks, and they are going to be pretty OK with Blade: Trinity.

Returning for more blood and bang-bang in a rare genre franchise with a successful first sequel, Wesley Snipes reprises his role as the powerful "Daywalker" who's half-human, half-vampire. He ditched the silly name Eric years ago, and in this third outing he's all Blade. Having tangled with a blood god, assorted Predator-faced supervampires, Udo Kier, Traci Lords and even his own mother, he and his sword now return to beat on the proto-vampire himself, Dracula. Make no mistake: Written and directed by David S. Goyer (who penned the first two Blade movies), this is filmmaking by dorks, for dorks. As such, it is lowbrow, freakish fun, a gritty Saturday matinee for adults who like a bit of cheese with their popcorn.

This time our fanged and meticulously tattooed urban antihero becomes a fugitive in the straight world when he's set up by a vampire network led by nasty bloodsucker hottie Danica Talos (Parker Posey, of all things). Since no good deed goes unpunished, Blade's years of service protecting humanity from vampires lead to him being captured and interrogated by the FBI. That's right, there's a government-vampire conspiracy afoot, including a deranged psychologist named Vance (John Michael Higgins) who patronizes Blade by asking if he even knows who's currently the U.S. president. "An asshole," barks the laconic hipster, sans pause. Apparently those are fighting words, thus fighting quickly and plentifully resumes.

Now that Goyer is finally in the driver's seat of the franchise he shepherded from Marvel Comics to the big screen, he opts to err -- sometimes wisely, often not -- on the side of bombast. Blade hesitantly and resentfully teams up with a vampire-hunting posse called the Nightstalkers, which includes Jessica Biel (the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake) and Ryan Reynolds (National Lampoon's Van Wilder) playing a pair of taut, trendy, frequently exposed abdomens who sass and shoot things a lot. Just about every part of our heroes and their weapons is repeatedly fetishized, usually amid or just prior to extreme violence, to a point that would embarrass Rambo. Goyer even stoops to riff on that ol' Reservoir Dogs walking-somberly-toward-the-camera-in-slow-motion trick. And this is only mentioning the glaring moments between endless sorties of generic vampires exploding into wads of hot ash.

Kris Kristofferson is a good sport to return as Blade's mentor (and Biel's father), especially when he's forced to compete for screen time with an evil henchman played by pro-wrestler Triple H (Paul Levesque), who snarls and gnashes his teeth in a very Alien kind of way. Eric Bogosian also shows up via stunt-casting as a talk-show host.

As for Dracula, in this telling he's played by Dominic Purcell, who rivals Van Helsing's Richard Roxburgh as the silliest Australian to take on the legend. Where Roxburgh oozed pompous absurdity, though, Purcell comes across as a buzz-cut frat boy gone haywire, molesting a Goth-shop clerk (again, fetishized, replete with plaid schoolgirl skirt) and crucifying a blind, blond scientist (Natasha Lyonne) before going mano a mano with Snipes. A millennia-old demon also known as "Drake," he eventually transforms into one of those rubber-suited monsters who only appear in severely reduced lighting. This is reasonably nifty, but overall -- ahem -- he sucks.

It also doesn't help that Goyer forces his characters into tirades of puerile playground profanity. Poor Reynolds cannot open his mouth without delivering such witty gems as "cock-juggling thundercunt" and "How 'bout you take a sugar-frosted fuck off the end of my dick?" Even Dracula gets a groove on "motherfucker." Suddenly Underworld starts seeming really classy.

Something vaguely mythic emerged with Stephen Norrington's Oedipal, LA-based Blade in 1998; with Blade II a couple of years ago, horrormeister Guillermo del Toro spun us into really disturbing scenarios in the funky underbelly of Prague. In Blade: Trinity, one can feel the strain of competing with past successes, and it's to Goyer's credit that he keeps the action fast and hard, the score (by Ramin Djawadi and the RZA) pumping, and the niggling questions shushed. (Miraculously, he even finds time to slip in William Shatner in the cult film Incubus, some off-center Oz trivia, and two lucrative homages to Mac's iTunes software.) This Trinity may be the least of the three -- sound familiar, Matrix faithful? -- but it's the closest in style and attitude to a pulpy comic book, an art form that doesn't need to be lofty, perfect or even sensible to tickle a dork's fancy.

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