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Blade & Mahershala Ali in Marvel Hell: Is the MCU in Trouble?

Mahershala Ali signed on to play Blade in the MCU in 2019. Since then, the movie has been plagued with various production issues and talent turnovers. Why is this project seemingly so difficult?

Actor Mahershala Ali, who is set to play Blade. Credit: Shutterstock/Tinseltown
Actor Mahershala Ali, who is set to play Blade. Credit: Shutterstock/Tinseltown

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was undoubtedly at the top of the world by 2019. It had three massive hits at the box office, including the historic semi-ending of Phase 3, Avengers: Endgame (2019). And so many new projects teased a promising future.

And yet, it’s now 2024, and the MCU has struggled to maintain the level of quality blockbuster work so many fans praised it for. Perhaps no project exemplifies the struggles the MCU is currently going through like Blade. But to understand this failure, you must have a baseline understanding of the character of Blade.

Wesley Snipes in Blade (1998). Credit: YouTube/JoBlo Superheroes
Wesley Snipes in Blade (1998). Credit: YouTube/JoBlo Superheroes

The History of Blade in Comics and Movies

The character of Blade made his Marvel Comics debut back in 1973. Originally a supporting character in a Dracula series, he then became a focus of solo stories. Gradually, he garnered a following, and nowadays, he’s considered one of the best superheroes in the horror subgenre!

Blade’s real name is Eric Brooks, and his mother was killed by a vampire during birth. This turns him into a “daywalker”. He is immune to daylight, and has a lot of the superhuman strength and speed of vampires, but is still half-human. He studies vampire lore, becomes a master of swordsmanship and martial arts, and then begins to hunt them down.

The character also holds significance for being one of the first times Marvel was able to successfully adapt something into a movie. In 1998, New Line Cinema helped produce Blade, starring Wesley Snipes in the title role. It was an instant hit with audiences, and very profitable at the box office. Even all these years later, comic book fans still consider Snipes’ performance as one of the best in terms of bringing a character to life!

Two sequels with Snipes came out in 2002 (Blade II) and 2004 (the oft-hated Blade: Trinity), respectively. The last Blade project was Blade: The Series, a one-season TV show in 2006. Starring rapper Sticky Fingaz as the character, it didn’t really leave an impact.

The logo for Marvel Studios. Credit: Shutterstock/Hamara
The logo for Marvel Studios. Credit: Shutterstock/Hamara

The Journey of Blade in the MCU Thus Far

The journey to make this upcoming movie has taken way longer than anyone expected. For the sake of brevity, I will abridge as much as I can. As per the beginning, 2019 is the year the project was announced, as well as the fact Mahershala Ali stars in the role. But of course, COVID-19 got in the way.

By 2021, screenwriter Stacy Osei-Kuffour and director Bassam Tariq have joined the team, and Ali had a small voice cameo in Eternals as Blade. Seems like there’s headway, right? There’s even more reason to think so. In 2022, actors Delroy Lindo and Aaron Pierre join the cast in undisclosed roles and it gets a release date for November 2023.

Unfortunately, Tariq exits the movie that same year. The release date moves to 2024. A new screenwriter comes in for a new script, and there’s now a new director: Yann Demange. In April of 2023, the announcement of Mia Goth in the cast causes excitement, and a third screenwriter, Nic Pizzolatto of True Detective (2014- ) creates interest. And then… the strikes!!

The WGA strikes. Credit: Shutterstock/Ringo Chiu
The WGA strikes. Credit: Shutterstock/Ringo Chiu

Post-strikes, the release date is now November 2025, the screenwriter for Logan (2017) joins the party, and Ali says the project is gaining more headway. 2024, however, is throwing more wrenches in the way. We now have Aaron Pierre and Delroy Lindo leaving the movie, and another director exit, and another screenwriter, Eric Pearson. On top of that, a large set with a train meant to be an integral part of the movie is now being used for a different movie. Apparently, there will be a director search after the script is written this summer, but now, the fans, as well as Ali, are getting fed up.

The MCU’s Other Problems

The production of this Blade movie hasn’t been the only issue Marvel is currently facing. There is a pivot from the Kang saga that heavily involved actor Jonathan Majors after his firing for being found guilty on an assault charge. Captain America: Brave New World (2025) has undergone several batches of reshoots, which has fans worried. Even Avengers 5 (2026) and Avengers: Secret Wars (2026) have multiple entrances and exits in terms of personnel. Writer Jeff Loveness was replaced by Michael Waldron for the fifth film, and director Destin Daniel Cretton left the fifth film as well.

It’s not as extensive as Blade‘s, but there seems to be a bigger picture here. It’s even more apparent when successful hits like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023) don’t seem to come out as often as they once did.

Ali in Alita: Battle Angel. This look is used in several Blade fan edits. Credit: YouTube/20th Century Studios
Ali in Alita: Battle Angel (2019). This look is in several Blade fan edits. Credit: YouTube/20th Century Studios

What is the Path Forward?

Some have expressed that the MCU should take more time to make its movies and shows so we have more quality over quantity. I think that’s an admirable sentiment. However, Blade shouldn’t be going through screenwriters at the rate it have been. It feels like they keep starting over.

A part of me wonders if this is an attempt to try and fit Blade into the future plans of the MCU and what it’s trying to build towards. Another part wonders what some of the writers are up to (reportedly, one draft of the script sidelined Blade as a supporting character for a female protagonist). And yet another part wonders if this movie will ever see the light of day, since Ali might take a role in a new Jurassic World movie. And, he’s currently 50 years old.

Hopefully, everything goes well, but if Blade is to be a success, it must find a director with passion and skill at the helm. It must allow it to be a showcase for Ali’s talent and the character’s potential. It must make use of an R rating and have some killer action. Much of this is not a new concept for the MCU. We love the characters because that criteria, at least at first, did seem to matter. Why Blade, of all things, presents such a difficult challenge is a mystery that has yet to be brought into the daylight.

Written By

Hi, my name is J.D., and I'm a writer here at TrillMag, and as far back as I can remember, I've loved talking and writing about movies, TV, and the general entertainment industry. I hope to cover some current trends, and also recommend some things you might've overlooked!

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