Bloodshot bombed hard, but the most embarrassing thing about it is how much it aspired to be.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been the envy of every major film studio since the release of The Avengers in 2012. The pathetic desire of producers and IP holders to replicate Marvel’s simple formula has resulted in several companies with multiple failed examples under their belt. Some attempts last longer than others, but the ostensibly ongoing effort to make a cinematic universe out of the works of Valiant Comics may be the funniest.
The most highly-publicized failed cinematic universe is undoubtedly Universal’s Dark Universe. The Mummy was financially disastrous, critically despised, and widely mocked by audiences. The funniest moment in the film comes before it starts. Audiences burst into laughter when the Universal Studios logo switches into its Dark Universe form for the first and final time. The Dark Universe might be the best-known failure, but it isn’t the most embarrassing.
What is Bloodshot about?
Bloodshot follows Ray Garrison, an elite Marine with a long history of successful missions. Ray is on vacation with his wife, Gina, when a dangerous team of armed mercenaries attacks. They demand information on Ray’s latest mission. He refuses to answer. They execute Gina. Ray vows revenge on the mercenary leader, Martin Axe, who summarily kills Ray as well. Ray wakes up without most of his memories. He finds himself in the care of Rising Spirit Technologies, a company that fits struggling veterans with cybernetic enhancements. Ray discovers that he’s been resurrected as the first successful subject of the Bloodshot program.
Ray’s blood has been replaced with nanomachines, enhancing his strength and healing his wounds. The nanites must be frequently recharged, or the injuries he suffered will resurface and kill him. Ray meets lead scientist Dr. Emil Harting and his other subjects, KT, Tibbs, and Dalton. With his superhuman powers, Ray hunts down Axe, slaughters his bodyguards, and eliminates him. When Ray returns to RST, Dr. Harting puts him to sleep to recharge his nanites. Though Ray has completed his quest for vengeance, the story isn’t over. Dr. Harting isn’t as docile as he appears, and Ray’s revenge isn’t so straightforward. Ray wakes again with a new memory of his wife’s murder and a new target. Ray must discover who’s using him and find a way to set himself free.
In 1989, former Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter and a cadre of wealthy investors tried and failed to buy Marvel. As a consolation prize, they formed Voyager Communications. Voyager’s main imprint was Valiant, which swiftly poached talent from Marvel. Valiant’s output was the defining narrative universe for a generation of edgy 90s kids. They produced iconic characters such as X-O Manowar, Ninjak, Shadowman, and the H.A.R.D. Corps. They were purchased by the famously terrible video game company Acclaim Entertainment in 1994. Acclaim went under in 2004, handing Valiant off to a pair of entrepreneurs.
The early 2010s were the best period of Valiant’s existence. They were purchased in 2018 by DMG Entertainment, the film studio that helps films like Iron Man 3 reach theaters in China. Valiant was selling well, and its new parent company had experience in film production. Valiant’s next step was obvious. They’d do the same thing they’d always do, copy Marvel. Valiant signed a nine-feature deal with DMG in 2015, three years before the company would buy the publisher. Bloodshot was announced in 2018. Unfortunately, it hit theaters in March 2020.
Even if Bloodshot had been a good movie, the pandemic left it with a wound it couldn’t survive. As of 2019, Sony was developing a film based on Faith Herbert, while Paramount was developing one about Harbinger. These films would’ve gradually built towards a Valiant Comics Cinematic Universe. Diesel reportedly signed on for a Bloodshot sequel in 2020. There’s been no word on any of these projects, the rights are split between at least four companies, and the comical failure of Bloodshot might have buried the entire enterprise.
How does Bloodshot end?
The twist in Bloodshot is that Dr. Harting has repeatedly rewritten Ray’s memories to send him after the scientist’s former colleagues. He’s sent after one of Axe’s subordinates. A programmer named Wigans stuns Ray with an EMP, severing his link to RST. Ray wakes up with multiple conflicting memories of who killed his wife. Wigans breaks the news to Ray, who tracks down Gina. He discovers his wife has moved on and started a new family without him. Ray returns to RST to take revenge. KT asks Wigans to break RST’s control over her so she can help Ray. Ray has to kill Dalton and Tibbs. Ray’s nanites are exhausted in the fight. Dr. Harting tries to subdue him with a grenade launcher, but Ray uses an explosive to destroy them both. Sometime later, Wigans reactivates Ray’s nanites to bring him back to life. Wigans, Ray, and KT escape the destroyed lab and seek a new life.
Bloodshot is an action film with a single good idea and no good execution. It’s a mess that fails to understand what appealed to fans. Bloodshot is probably still Valiant’s flagship character, and though their comical dreams of cinematic universe success may be dead, the publisher has a lot of experience failing to copy Marvel.