Let me tell you a story about a trilogy of movies that became a director’s franchise. The first movie was a cool little horror movie, the second jacked up the action quotient to roller coaster levels, and the third had all the right ingredients for a great movie, but never quite came together. I’m speaking, of course, of the Aliens Trilogy (sure, there were four in that series, and I expect there to be a fourth entry in the Blade series).

Blade: Trinity is a wildly uneven film that is meant to appeal to the inner juvenile male in all of us.

Here’s the rub: I wanted to like this movie. I thought the first movie (directed by Stephen Norrington) was a serviceable entry into the series, hitting all the key points of establishing the character and his mission. The second one (brilliantly directed by Guillermo Del Toro, who went on to direct Hellboy) raised my expectations, extending the mythology of the character and increasing the action quotient. Quite frankly, I went into this movie expecting something like Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (the basis for the movie The Omega Man or The Last Man on Earth).

The set up, since using the word plot implies a cohesive narrative structure, sees vampire uber-hunter Blade being pursued by the Vampire Nation; a distraction, since they are really after Dracula. The movie has the feel of trying to be the closing chapter in the series, with both sides talking about finding a final solution to their enemies/problems. Blade is caught in a battle between earthly things, the law (specifically the police and federal agents) and spiritual forces, the vampires. As a hybrid of both realms, being both human and vampire, his dual nature is constantly in battle with each other. Vampirism becomes a metaphor for sin, especially in that for him, it is only the blood that keeps his “sin nature” from over-taking him. Despite his method acting choice of keeping his face frozen like he’s had one too many Botox injections, Wesley Snipes is having fun during this movie. So much fun that I’d wish he’d either do a movie based on the comic book character Black Panther or get back to doing movies that stretch his talent.

The “trinity” in question is made up of Blade (Wesley Snipes) and members of a group calling themselves the Night Stalkers: Abigail Whistler (Jessica Biel), and Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds). Metaphorically though, you kind of have to wonder how the spiritual (physical in Abigail’s case) father to all of them, Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), fits in. His parting observation is that when you are in a war, you can’t do it by yourself. As cool as the lone wolf routine may seem, we weren’t meant to be alone. This sets up the tricky concept of the trinity. There are three centers of consciousness, yet one being, one mission. Each person of the trinity is co-equal, yet serves different roles. The persons are at once independent and interdependent. And ultimately, the trinity is about relational unity and fellowship.

The movie gives lip service to wanting to separate the myths from the facts when it comes to vampires. It is a little known fact that every culture in the world has a variation on the idea of vampires, most pre-dating their popularization with Bram Stoker’s “fable” Dracula. It should be noted that in Dracula, Stoker conceived the perfect “anti-Christ”: a creature who sought eternal life through blood, given to resurrection in a new body after three days, defeated by a stake (a piece of the cross), the crucifix, baptism/holy water, or the sun’s (son’s) light. So while the movie on the one hand tries to run from the vampire’s Christian trappings, it turns around and gives their Dracula (Dominic Purcell) a more stereotypic demonic look (which draws upon the look of the strain of vampires seen in Blade II). That is, when this incarnation of Dracula isn’t doing his Fabio impersonation. Yeah, you take him, and all the vampires, that seriously. This added to the list of failings for the movie: to be a larger than life hero, you need a larger than life opponent. You never felt this from Dracula: it was as if the name alone was supposed to be threat enough.

For that matter, all the characters (say it with me) sucked, except for Hannibal King. He was charismatic and funny–the perfect counterbalance to Snipes’ Blade–and held the movie together. Then again, that’ll happen when you give a character history, depth, a reason for being, and good dialogue.

Put simply, this movie lacked style. The movie provided a showcase for scream queen performances as plenty of vulnerable women are given chances to shriek as Dracula bites them. It even seem to strive to be a B-movie with some of the over-the-top performances, bad (or badly delivered) dialogue, and gratuitous shower scene. The movie tries to distract us from its lack of narrative voice with fight scenes that never build toward a final confrontation. Plus, someone decided that the movie ought to be loud instead of cool, since dance club music obviously sets a better mood than an actual musical score (do I need to point out the ridiculousness of Jessica Biel downloading music into her iPod so that she has theme music to kill by or a fighter using their ears to listen to music in a fight in the first place?) To add to the “been there” feeling of the movie, the ending plays out with an eerie familiarity if you’ve seen the first Blade. Sure, there were plenty of moments meant to be high five moments, for instance, when Abigail stakes a vampire a little south of where my biology class taught me the heart was. Then again, all the vampires in the movie were fairly easy to dispatch. This might be the biggest sin of the movie: vampires that aren’t scary.

So we have underwritten characters and direction that lacked style. Sounds like we can lay the blame for the failings of this movie at the feet of writer/director David S. Goyer.

Overall, the movie borders on being shrill and just this side of cheesy as it can’t quite escape the B-movie feel to it. With even the stand and cheer moments feeling forced, this movie may please some comic book fans, but lovers of vampire lore, or coherent story-telling, will be disappointed.