Marvel Makes History With New Blade Movie

Olive Rios
August 8, 2019

If you thought we were done with big Marvel films after the release of 'Avengers: Endgame,' you have another thing coming. The final 'Avengers' film may now officially be the highest-grossing movie of all time, but Marvel is already on with the process of making the next generation of blockbuster hits. In doing so, they've returned to another familiar franchise - although not one that's strictly based on superheroes. The hit-making studio has announced that the vampire killer 'Blade' is making a comeback to the big screen after fifteen years away - and in the process, Marvel is making history with its casting. 

Mahershala Ali will be playing the lead part in the film. The Oscar-winning performer - who picked up the 'Best Supporting Actor' award for 'Moonlight' in 2017 and picked up the same award two years later for 'Green Book,' was the first Muslim ever to win an Academy Award. He's now followed up that success by becoming the first Muslim performer ever to take the lead in a Marvel movie.

The move is consistent with several initiatives Marvel have put into place in recent years to make themselves more diverse and representative in their output. Although they've occasionally drawn criticism from conservative commentators for doing so, they've drawn praise from many quarters for making efforts to improve the way that women are represented on screen with films like 'Captain Marvel,' which starred Brie Larson.

At the same time as increasing representation and diversity, they've been keen to withdraw their branding from any industry which they deem to be non-family friendly. That led to the surprising withdrawal of their range of mobile slots, which were making a significant profit, because they didn't wish to be associated with gambling. Many of Marvel's movies and characters had their own slot games, including Thor, Iron Man, and The Incredible Hulk. Even Blade had its own mobile slots game. Although the loss of the games was lamented by players who enjoy both mobile slots and Marvel movies, it appears there's no going back in Marvel's quest to be seen as moral guardians of the galaxy.

In being cast in what will be seen as his most prominent and significant role to date, Ali is stepping into the shoes of Wesley Snipes, who made the role his own in three films between 1998 and 2004. Snipes would probably be considered to be too old to play the role convincingly now, but even if he weren't, his high-profile legal issues would make it impossible for Marvel to cast him given everything we've just said about their brand identity. Ali is a new Blade for a new generation, and will likely provide a whole new take on the established character. Instead of being a direct continuation of the existing trilogy of films, it's understood that the new Blade will be a 'reboot' of the type which has been so popular in cinema for the past decade.

Far from being put out over the announcement, Snipes has responded with enthusiasm and congratulations. The actor, who has lived as a Muslim in the past (although long before making the previous films), issued a brief statement through his agent calling Ali a 'beautiful and talented artist,' and one whose 'expressions' he looked forward to experiencing more in the future. He signed off by expressing a wish that the two of them could work together - which builds some leeway for a Snipes cameo in the new film in the unlikely event that Marvel should want to go down that route.

In choosing Ali, Marvel has gone for an actor who has a history of making rousing speeches, and commenting on social and political issues in the media. Ali has spoken many times about his conversion to Islam; most notably when he was collecting a Screen Actor's Guild in 2017 shortly after President Trump's notorious attempted ban on immigration from multiple Muslim countries, which he directly referenced and attacked during the speech. His religion and his history-making role are likely to come under the spotlight around the time of the movie's launch, so it's likely that comments he's made in the past will be presented anew. We would presume that Marvel is already aware of this, and is prepared to deal with it.

Marvel's move towards greater representation hasn't happened for no reason or come from nowhere; before adjusting their branding strategy, they'd faced widespread criticism for several years about their casting policy. At one point, they famously had four white men with the first name 'Chris' leading their biggest film franchises (Chris Pine, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, and Chris Pratt). Memes of the four Chris' went viral on the internet, and were used to mock Marvel. The studio's response since then has been impressive, and their current slate of forthcoming films is even more so.

At the same time as confirming Ali in the part of Blade, Marvel issued further details on several projects they currently have in development. Among them is 'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,' which will be completely led by Asian performers, and 'The Eternals' which will be led by actors of Pakistani and Mexican heritage. 'Black Widow' is also moving closer, as is a new 'Black Panther' movie.

At this point, nothing more is known about the new film. We know that Ali is in the lead role, and it has the simple working title of 'Blade,' but Marvel are not currently giving anything further away. As it would appear that the casting has only just occurred, we assume that the film is currently in post-production, and yet to begin shooting. Given the amount of time that now goes into creating a large-scale Marvel movie, we expect that the new-generation version of 'Blade' won't be hitting the big screen until 2021 at the earliest. As the next US Presidential Election will have been and gone by then, there will have been plenty of time for Marvel's latest star to have another media run-in with Donald Trump before the movie's release!

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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