'Bloodshot': A dose of superpowered action
When Vin Diesel breaches and clears a house full of terrorists holding a hostage, you get the sinking feeling that Bloodshot is pandering to the worst impulses of big budget superhero flicks. It’s pure roided up machismo. The tone doesn’t change as we are served cliché upon cliché from both bad superhero movies and jingoistic American 80s action extravaganzas.
When the guy we are made to believe is the big bad shows up, it’s with The Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” blaring in the background. And there’s a dance sequence.
All this is enough to make you want to walk out of the theater. Because really, where else could this movie possibly be going. And would we not be better served saving a couple of hours we won’t ever get back?
I’ll tell you now, stay there. Stay and keep watching. I can’t reveal much more plot-wise without compromising a viewer’s possible enjoyment. Facepalm where you feel is right. And laugh, because some of this movie’s indulgence in cliché are truly worth laughing at. But stick with it, because this movie will surprise you. It’s nowhere near as refined story-wise as what we have gotten used to from the Marvel machinery, but it’s a strong action movie.
A major thing to consider when you watch is that Diesel and Bloodshot carry not just this film, but the aspirations of an entire cinematic universe on their shoulders. This positions itself where Robert Downey, Jr. and Iron Man were in 2008, launching what would become the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Most viewers might not be familiar with the comic book this movie is based on, nor with Valiant, the comics company behind it. Vailant is a comics publisher that came up and released an interesting universe of characters in the 90s. They went out of business but were relaunched in 2012. In their second coming produced some of the best comics work across the line. Comics fans will know characters like X-O Manowar, The Eternal Warrior, Faith, Archer and Armstrong, and of course the unkillable super-soldier Bloodshot. If you find this movie interesting, then it’s worth digging into the crates and picking up both the old Valiant stuff and the relaunched work. If you want to stick to movies, then all you really need to know is that Valiant’s universe is a lot darker and very wary of technology and the human impulse toward violence.
Now another thing to consider is that the Valiant-verse (or whatever they will call it) isn’t just an attempt to make another superhero mega-franchise. They have to try to create this after the MCU has completed its first sprawling story cycle, and the DCEU has started to hit its stride (sort of). Add to that the gripes about “superhero movie fatigue” and all the think pieces being written about how superhero movies are ruining films. Valiant, if it goes in what might be the expected direction for a wannabe franchise, could easily fall into disaster, or even worse, be met with utter indifference.
Since I’m writing this review before any of the audience responses come in, then I don’t exactly know where this will all wind up. I do believe that with this offering, we get a movie that should be rewarded by fans with a viewing (or three) in the theater, as well as more movies that feature Valiant’s great cast of characters.
In fact, what this might feel like at times is a souped-up Schwarzenegger movie or a modern take on Universal Soldier. This film’s sensibilities and aesthetics are definitely influenced by 80s action movies, but director Dave Wilson (whose IMDB page is filled with entries from AAA action video games) and the writers (Jeff Wadlow and Eric Heisserer) give us something that is definitely modern and interesting. It sidesteps a lot of the clichés that I reference earlier in the review and gets just the right mix of heart-pounding action and good comic relief.
One thing I can’t stop thinking about is the movie’s use of VFX. It’s a showcase in terms of how well the action can be enhanced and how easily we can accept a lot of the near-future tech that the movie shows off. The CG work here gives some of the solo Marvel and DC movies a run for their money (I’m looking at you, Black Panther and Aquaman). What makes the imagery even better is it isn’t wholly reliant on VFX or camera trickery, as even basics like framing and color contrast are all utilized to create compelling shots.
I think it’s going to be hard to convince people to go see this movie. Diesel’s box office mojo is now mostly tied to the Fast franchise, and with the aforementioned superhero fatigue it’s a tough sell to convince someone to see a comic book-based movie. And yet, if you could just get into the movie and give it a chance, I think it’s well worth the time. Anyone who’s got love for 80s action movies needs to see this. And fans who want some great action and maybe get ahead on the Valiant-verse should go hit the theater for this. – Rappler.com
Carl makes podcasts at PumaPodcast and teaches Creative Writing at the Ateneo Fine Arts Department.