The one positive about this whole pandemic thing is the extra time it’s given me to spend on catching up on Television and Movies. There is so much out there now that a geek like me can enjoy, it feels like there is simply not enough time in the day! Bloodshot is a case in point.
Based on the Valiant comic book series of the same name, the movie Bloodshot is all about Vin Diesel and his nanobot infused form. Now, I’m not really a fan of the Fast and the Furious franchise but I do really like Vin Diesel. Aside from his epic portrayal of Groot (!) from the Guardians of the Galaxy, I really loved him in The Chronicles of Riddick. The subsequent films were not as good, but the first one was really enjoyable.
Bloodshot, however, is potentially the start of another franchise different to Riddick and the Fast and the Furious. Here, elite soldier Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) is resurrected by scientists using nanotechnology. The former elite U.S. commando, after dying before the opening credits, wakes up on a hospital gurney inside a gleaming skyscraper to find that his body has been donated by the military to science — specifically, the firm Rising Spirit Technologies, whose founder Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce, sporting a bionic arm, two-day stubble and an untrustworthy twinkle in his eye) has resuscitated Ray, turning him into a cybernetically enhanced super-soldier.
Now it initially took me a little bit of time to figure out where I’d seen Dr. Emil Harting previously, but I realized quickly that he’s been a Marvel baddie before. You might have recognized him earlier, but in case you didn’t – welcome the Mandarin from Iron Man 3. As soon as I realized who I was looking at, I knew he was not all sunshine and roses as he’d initially pretended to be. I know, comparing a character across literally two different universes is probably not the best strategy. After all, you cannot judge a book by its cover right? But, suffice it to say, I was right!
With an indestructible body and brute strength, the slain US Marine Ray Garrison is revived as ‘Bloodshot’ – a biotech killing machine like no other. Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) breathes new life into Garrison’s body but robs him of all the memories of his past life. A life that is cut short by a psycho killer, who kills Ray’s wife Gina Garrison (Talulah Riley) in cold blood, before killing him too.
Based on the Valiant Comics character with the same name, ‘Bloodshot’ sets off with a solid premise for a revenge drama. Add to that, a wholesome dose of sci-fi tropes, give the narrative a thrilling leap of imagination. Like the microscopic ‘nanites’ running in Ray’s bloodstream that can magically heal fatal injuries and give him unbridled power.
Ray is now (a) plagued by amnesia and dim memories that may or may not have been implanted; (b) powered by microscopic “nanites” that have been injected into his bloodstream, giving him the power to heal grievous injuries like magic, punch holes in concrete pillars and conduct Internet searches without opening Google Chrome; and (c) programmed to be a killing machine.
With all of this going for him, you’d think that Ray would have an easy time? Sadly as we discover during the course of this film, all is not as it seems. Ray is actually being mind-controlled. The death of his wife and his death are both staged by Dr. Harting in an effort to remove his business parties. Through the use of some fairly decent computer programs and CGI, they make Ray see a different face each time and then let him do his stuff.
Bursting with both the lighting schemes and emotional depth of a Michael Bay film, “Bloodshot” is the kind of cinematic distraction that suddenly seems, if not necessary, wholly welcome. It’s the kind of a film where a bad guy goes “arrrggggh” after being shot repeatedly, as if grievous bodily harm was no worse than a mild case of food poisoning, the sort of film where a horny Vin Diesel rips off his shirt and declares that his hot wife is the reason why he fights for America, goddammit. It’s the kind of film where those things happen within the first five minutes, and it only gets sillier from there.
The computer graphics and visual effects showing the bionic smarts look real, but the same cannot be said for some of the set pieces. Action, for the most part, is quite an edge of the seat, especially, the one in the elevator. Even Bloodshot himself (he is never, ever referred to as Bloodshot) seems popped right out of an action-hero mold that was played out a decade ago: a kickass soldier who knows how to throw a punch but who never quite learned how to take direction from his superiors.
Overall, ‘Bloodshot’ is a decent attempt that scores on its ambitious sci-fi imagination and a superhero, who is always ready for action. As one of the last movies to premiere in theaters before the coronavirus pandemic shut down social gatherings, Bloodshot has had a terrible journey to existence. Once upon a time, the Vin Diesel-led action movie based on the comic book from Valiant Entertainment would have kicked off a new cinematic universe built around its superheroes.
Creating a cinematic universe is hard, if not impossible, and as Hollywood moves into triage to salvage this year’s releases, extending them into 2021, the idea of a new one just seems increasingly absurd.
The economics of the entertainment industry are being entirely upended, and a return to the previous status quo seems increasingly unlikely. Marvel movies will likely be fine with some reconfiguring, DC films will likely stick around, and mega-franchise like The Fast and Furious movies or Star Wars is probably not going anywhere. But the era where studios actively try to catch the cinematic universe wave? That trend might be over for everyone but the biggest players in Hollywood, a strange period in history brought to an even stranger ending.