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Blade: Marvel Studios' daywalker flick starring Mahershala Ali lands Bassam Tariq to direct

By Benjamin Bullard
2019 ComicCon Marvel Studios Panel

It’s been two years since Marvel carved out a whole new wave of fan buzz by announcing its plan to revive Blade for modern movie audiences, taking a fresh vampiric bite on the once-bitten box office success of the dark 1998 film that put Wesley Snipes in a bloody memorable starring role.

But aside from casting Mahershala Ali as its hero and landing Watchmen's Stacy Osei-Kuffour as writer (along with some good-natured noise from Snipes himself), things have remained mostly quiet since that first big reveal at 2019’s San Diego Comic-Con. From the murky darkness, though, big Blade news at last appears to be stirring: Deadline reports that Marvel has tapped up-and-coming director Bassam Tariq to helm the new reboot.

Bassam Tariq

Tariq may have only a pair of directing credits to his name, but they’ve both caught major attention from the film world — including Marvel studio head Kevin Feige. His first film, These Birds Walk, drew raves from critics following its 2013 premiere at SXSW; while last year’s drama Mogul Mowgli —  the story of a British-Pakistani rapper with a budding career cut short by a rare autoimmune disease — is set for a September U.S. release following tons of positive press in the wake of its 2020 premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival.

Taking the helm of a movie reboot freighted with all the nostalgic pull that Snipes lent to the 1998 film is no small chore, and Marvel’s process to arrive at Tariq appears to have been deliberate and thorough, via Deadline’s report. “Feige, Ali and studio execs have been meeting with dozen[s] of candidates going all the way back to the fall, at one point considering writer-director options before ultimately separating the two and tapping Osei-Kuffour to pen the script,” it states. After a second round of vetting finalists for the job, “[t]hose that made the final cut met and delivered their final presentations over that time and in the end it was Tariq[’s] vision that ultimately won all parties over.”

While Marvel hasn’t offered details about its story approach, the new Blade may already have laid down a fun tease (via a seemingly throwaway line in episode 4 of Loki) that sets up the shared DNA of the interconnected slate of MCU films and Disney+ projects that are setting up Marvel’s Phase 4. In the episode, Owen Wilson’s Agent Mobius remarks that “we've brought in Kree, Titans, vampires” to deal with all the ongoing Asgardian mischief. “Why is it the two orphan demigods are such a pain the ass?”

A superhero human-vampire hybrid who’s tasked with hunting other vampires, Blade got his start in the Marvel comics in the 1970s as a secondary character in Tomb of Dracula No. 10. Snipes’ 1990s movie portrayal catapulted Blade to pop culture sensation, spawning a film trilogy that attracted top-tier directing talent from Stephen Norrington (Blade), Guillermo del Toro (Blade II), and Blade: Trinity (director David S. Goyer, who also wrote all three films).

Since then, the character has remained a perennial fan favorite; one ripe for another go at the big screen (especially in light of the short-lived Spike TV series from the mid-2000s). Now that the MCU has the budget and creative freedom to expand far beyond even the big-screen successes of Marvel’s earlier films, watch for Blade to come slicing back to do some serious box office damage — at some point. The reboot hasn’t yet been given a release date, but is expected to roll out somewhere in the midst of Marvel’s larger Phase 4 lineup.