Review by C.J. Bunce
A little bit Robocop, a little bit Bionic Man, a little bit of every Marvel solo character origin story, and very Vin Diesel, the movie adaptation of the 1990s Valiant Comics Harvey and Eisner Award-nominated sci-fi/superhero Bloodshot was the first movie industry collateral damage from the pandemic because it arrived March 13 in theaters, the same weekend the U.S. federal government began responding and theaters began to modify their rules and ultimately close. Which also made it the first for a studio to release at theatrical prices via the new “theater-at-home” option from Vudu and Amazon Prime. The good news is it’s well worth full ticket prices, and would have been even better on the big screen. It has all of the right beats we’ve seen in the past decade in the better movies adapting comics beyond the traditional superheroes of DC Comics and Marvel. It also introduces fans of all things borg to the next squad of cyborg warriors worthy of sequels.
The cool, tough, and believable Diesel proved a smart casting decision for Ray Garrison, a soldier killed in battle, but resurrected Six Million Dollar Man and RoboCop-style and improved upon Captain America and Deadpool-style into the next incarnation of cybernetic warrior, with modified blood that allows his body to regenerate (think Wolverine), but also makes him controllable by others (think Source Code or Dollhouse). Diesel has the action hero part solidly on his resume from his role as fast car driver and ex-con Dominic Toretto in seven (so far) Fast & Furious films and Xander Cage in two xXx films, and he brings sci-fi street cred playing Riddick in the Chronicles of Riddick series. And, of course, he’s one-half of our favorite superhero duo, performing the voice of Groot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He couldn’t be matched up better, with Eiza González (Baby Driver, Hobbs & Shaw) as KT, another cyber warrior–ex-Navy–saved by future tech, she has cybernetic breathing technology that keeps her alive. KT is the next badass, sci-fi superheroine to add to your must-see list, and she gets a few great scenes that allow her to clear a room full of bad guys. New Girl’s Lamorne Morris shows some incredibly funny talents as a technology genius (“not just an IT guy”) and rounds out a team that shows promise for a sequel, complete with a nicely crafted British accent. And Guy Pearce turns in his best and most reserved performance so far, playing the scientist/entrepreneur Harting, who may or may not be tied to a entire strike squad with that vibe of cyborg villainy straight out of the bad guy team-up in last year’s James Cameron cyborg movie Alita: Battle Angel.
Bloodshot, the character, was created in 1992 by Bob Layton, Kevin VanHook, and Don Perlin. Duane Swierczynski, Jeff Lemire, and Matt Kindt have all worked on the series in this decade (2011-2020). The story in the film creates the next step in the evolution of cybernetic technology stories that began with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, mixing the rage of The Punisher with the impact on the human psyche and dehumanization of turning from man to cyborg. As promised in the trailers and source material, Bloodshot stacks up neatly beside the lab-created Hulk, the merger of body and “something else” of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, the mission and science of Captain America, Wolverine, and Deadpool, the determination of Cable, and it’s a fitting studio follow-up to (and even better than) the half-man/half-monster movie, Venom. That’s a lot of Marvel characters with similar struggles, and there are certainly more characters with the same vintage of origin story–an unlikely or involuntary super-soldier–so how do you spin this key comics trope in a fresh, new way? As writer Jeff Wadlow (Kick-Ass 2) has done it, you go back to the human condition, and look to what has come before, and throw in some unexpected surprises. Again, Bloodshot isn’t from Marvel, but indie publisher Valiant, but it’s sourced in a common creative mindset.
The movie co-stars Toby Kebbell (Warcraft, Fantastic Four, Planet of the Apes, Kong: Skull Island), Sam Heughan (Midsomer Murders, Outlander), and Talulah Riley (Doctor Who, Thor: The Dark World, Westworld). It’s directed by visual effects artist Dave Wilson. Music was created by horror movie go-to composer Steve Jablonsky (Ender’s Game, Transformers series, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, The Amityville Horror, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).
I reviewed Bloodshot: The Official Movie Novelization here at borg in February, a thoroughly compelling and fun read from Titan Books, so I knew the basic story framework was going to be good. The book is recommended for any fan of science fiction, whether you try the movie or not, right up there with Martin Caidin’s novel Cyborg. The novelization predicted an action-heavy film like Ryan Reynolds’ 6 Underground. The only downside is a result of the great trailer, which utilized a rewind effect not ultimately used in the film, along with Johnny Cash and a Vin Diesel line of dialogue, which also didn’t make it into the film. Fortunately, the trailer doesn’t give away all the surprises.
Bloodshot is a very cyborg story, a very sci-fi story, a very military story, and ultimately a very Marvel-inspired superhero story. It would be easy to see a team-up of Bloodshot, Cable, and The Punisher, and maybe even Blade, down the road in the Marvel universe of the big or small screen, if only someone would make that deal happen. Bloodshot was scheduled to arrive in theaters February 21, 2020, then moved to March 13. You can watch it now on Vudu or Amazon Prime, or pre-order it on Blu-Ray and other formats here at Amazon.