Whether you are a member of the MCU faithful, a DCEU fanatic or even if you’ve laid you hat at the door of the Monsterverse, you can’t deny that fans of cinematic universes have been spoilt for choice over the last decade but what of the NEW ones? For example, Universal’s Dark Universe (way too many universe’s in this sentence already) became unwrapped immediately with The Mummy so the concept isn’t exactly what you’d call fool proof. However, there was a hope that with Vin Diesel’s sci-fi action boom-fest Bloodshot, a brand new cinematic universe would be born – the Valiant Universe!
“The what?” I hear you say? Well, to be brutally honest, I’ve never read any of Valiant’s titles either (I’m not made of money dammit) but I have it on good authority that they have a varied cast of comic book characters every bit diverse as those seen in either DC or Marvel and if Bloodshot hits big (despite the title sounding like it’s a movie about overtaxed eyeballs) we could be seeing the beginnings of something big.
Somewhat unlikely, though…
We meet Vin Diesel’s unlikely named Ray Garrison (because he’s a one man army, get it? GET IT?) as he does some standard, heroic, military stuff in some war torn village and then sods off to have some post battle snuggling with his his adoring wife, but a dark cloud forms over his life in the inconsiderate form of having his wife murdered in front of him before being shot in the face. Roll credits…
But WAIT, not so fast! This isn’t JUST a Vin Diesel film – it’s a Vin Diesel comic book movie and before you can scream Robocop or X-Men Origins, he’s resurrected as an amnesiac killing machine who comes equipped with nannites in his blood who can literally stitch him back together no matter how catastrophic the damage he incurs happens to be. The brainchild of this venture is Guy Pearce’s Dr. Emil Harting (an amputee extension of his character from Iron Man 3) who has also specialised in various prosthetic devices that enable wounded soldiers to continue kicking ass. Befriended by KT, a former Navy diver blessed with bionic lungs, Garrison bonds with her only for the memory of his murder to resurface and for him to predictably rogue on a kill crazy rampage. With his new abilities making him as indestructible as a Nokia 3310, Ray manages to make short work of an army of bad guys and succeeds in avenging the murder of his wife. Roll credits…
But WAIT, not so fast (again)! It seems that not everything is on the up and up and there’s been some not-so subtle manipulation of Garrison’s memories in order to turn him into a more efficient skull buster which inevitably brings him into conflict with the man who brought him back to life. Trying to dig to up the truth about what exactly has happened to him, he has to avoid Harting’s agents who have been sent to retrieve him with some nifty Neill Blomkamp style gadgets, while making sure he doesn’t overtax the nano-tech that allow him to rag doll any wrongdoers within reach.
It becomes quickly apparent that as the first film in a new and hopeful franchise, Bloodshot is not only no Iron Man, but it’s barely a Man Of Steel or Godzilla either. The main problem with Bloodshot is the same problem that plagued Wolverine’s first solo movie – that having a hero who effortlessly wanders through small arms fire like it’s spray from a water sprinkler provides all the tension of an 80 year old sipping tea while cracking on with their day sudoku. Diesel’s had a recurring problems with his heroes being overly indestructible before (with Fast & Furious’ Dominic Toretto in particular shrugging off such things as extreme vehicular trauma and point blank missile blasts) but Ray Garrison doesn’t even BLEED, his ravaged flesh swarming back onto his frame while his chest glows like E.T. with killer biceps. Thanks to this (admittedly cool) effect, the film utterly fails to raise any sense of peril as our protagonist Wade’s through numerous thugs like someone playing a scrolling beat ’em up on an easy setting and the first half of the movie is stunningly derivative.
However, a mid-film twist actually explains the over-familiarity you get with the first the story but then frustratingly fails to follow up on this with it’s equally predictable second half, leaving you with an experience that’s neither surprising or particularly exciting.
I couldn’t begin to tell you how accurate to it’s comic book source Bloodshot ultimately ends up being (I’ve never read and issue and so any Easter eggs pertaining to the larger world went right over my head) but visually the film misses a trick by going out of it’s way to NOT have it’s notoriously bald star resemble the character much at all (bone white skin, black hair) and instead bends over backwards to vaguely invoke the design by having Bloodshot fight people in the wreckage of a crashed flour truck (?) like it’s the fucking 90’s all over again.
There’s good shit scattered here and there – Eiza Gonzaléz continues with the nice line of curvy, bionically augmented side characters she started in Alita: Battle Angel and some of the tech is pretty cool –
like the blind soldier who has cameras mounted all over his armour in order to give him 360° vision, or a spindly limbed battle suit that looks like Doctor Octopus has been skipping his bicep curls.
So, it seems we probably won’t be getting a Valiant cinematic universe any time soon as their inaugural character is ultimately portrayed somewhat as a more boring Wolverine who despite being a highly trained military combatant, immediately forgets the fact that he still really should be ducking at least a little bit despite having the life expectancy of a demigod with robot blood.
Loud, dumb and with a hero that as ludicrously over powered as God appearing as a contestant on Jeopardy, Bloodshot somehow features a plot filled with twists and turns that somehow refuses to contain any suprises whatsoever.