Is Blade really a superhero?
AKA are Vampire/Witch/etc hunters superheroes?
With Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters out this past weekend, I’ve been thinking about the role of the supernatural hunter in the superhero genre. The obvious example in favor of the argument is Blade. He’s part of the Marvel Universe right alongside Spider-Man and Iron Man, and yet if you look specifically at the movies, they’re pretty much straight up vampire hunter movies, without a trace of superhero in them. And for the purposes of this post, I’ll be lumping together vampires, werewolves, demons, and witches under the term supernatural hunter, since many of them follow the same kind of formula. So where does that leave other supernatural hunters in movies like Ultraviolet, Underworld, Vampire Hunter D, or even Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters? That’s what I’d like to figure out.
When you look at a lot of standard superhero elements, they just don’t apply to Vampire Hunters. They typically don’t have any special costumes, usually just a trenchcoat, or leather jacket, or some sort of black outfit. They also don’t typically have a secret identity, most supernatural hunters are part-supernatural themselves, whether they are half-vampire like Blade, or sometimes they’re something else entirely. And that advantage to their hunting also makes them an outcast to regular society and unable to live a normal life, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter which I haven’t seen. There’s also the fact that once you’ve uncovered the secret world of the supernatural living among the normal people, you just can’t go back to a normal life anymore.
There’s also the questions of the weapons. I think Blade probably gets the biggest props for his amazing looking samurai style sword, though some of his teammates weapons get more high tech and/or absurd as the movies go on. The rest of them are a mixed bag, there’s often the overtechnologized weapons in an old world like Van Helsing’s repeating crossbow, or Hansel and Gretel’s impressive weaponry, but I’m personally a fan of the simple swords, like those used by Blood and D. I will also say that I’ve got nothing against handguns when used in a modern setting, like in the Underworld movies, at least the first two.
One other thing that supernatural hunter movies tend to distance themselves from superhero movies is that they often have much more in common with a horror movie than a fantasy action movie. There’s typically a lot more blood and gore, they are usually rated R rather than PG or PG-13, and the visuals are dark, muddy, and moody rather than bright and vibrant. The fights are often some of the best things about the movies, usually kinetic and flashy with lots of martial arts and impossible moves. This is the one area where the comic book style can work for the movie. Nearly all supernatural hunters have above average strength and agility, either through supernatural means or through training.
Superhero movies are also often a method of exploring unique themes and ideas like the duality of a person, or the grey area between right and wrong. I think the best supernatural hunter movies are the ones that also at some point explore some of these questions as well. Often the best ones are where the hunter is in some part the same as what he or she is hunting. Asking the question of where does he belong, neither in the world of humans nor the world of the vampires. In a way they are hunting their own kind, and yet even if all of them are destroyed, there still will be one left.
As far as my own list of movies are concerned, the biggest factor, and pretty much the only factor I have when deciding whether or not a supernatural hunter gets included in my list of superhero movies rather than being relegated to an “almost super” tag is whether or not there is a comic book related to the title that’s not just a one-shot adaptation of the movie. So as far as my own personal opinion goes, which is all that really matters, (right?) some of the only supernatural hunters that I count as being superheroes are Blade, and Constantine. But of course, I’m also a fan of most of these supernatural hunter movies, I own such titles as Blood, both Vampire Hunter Ds, the first two Underworld movies, the first Resident Evil, and several others. I’m also curious about watching Hansel & Gretel and if I get the chance, it will be an upcoming “Almost Super” review, so until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.