Friday, 3 April 2020

Bloodshot (2020) - Movie Review

I don’t usually make predictions about what the film industry is going to look like in however-many years’ time, namely because it’s tricky enough judging what’s right in front of me, let alone what could possibly be next. However, this one feels like a decent bet: Filmgoers should make themselves familiar with Blur Studio, because they’re where the next wave of prospective big-timers are going to come from.

Founded by VFX wizard Tim Miller, better known for his iffy take on Deadpool and his criminally underrated take on Terminator, I could just point at their efforts from Love Death & Robots as proof positive of their place as the current vanguard of modern CGI potential. But it seems that they’re making their way into the cinemas proper as well, beyond just Miller’s own efforts. You know that Sonic The Hedgehog movie that’s been turning heads of late? Yeah, director Jeff Fowler is one of the old guard from Blur. And today’s feature shows another of their rank making it to the big screen with David S. F. Wilson (Remember that episode of LDR about robots fighting in gladiator matches? Yeah, that guy.). Unfortunately, for quite a few reasons, it seems like he’s been dealt a dud hand.

This is the latest attempt at pre-empting a cinematic universe, this time built on the properties of Valiant Comics. While I feel the need to point out that the main inspiration point for these attempts at priming the money printers, the MCU, didn’t put its cart before the horse, that feels like a formality next to this film’s pretty bizarre attempts at world-building. Or, rather, the lack thereof. It ends up spending far more time deconstructing its own status as a film than it does setting up for any to follow, treating its main story of a formerly-dead soldier turned cyborg revenge machine with an incessantly postmodern leaning.

It’s not nearly as cute as it thinks it is, though. I don’t know whether this is the fault of writer Eric Heisserer (whose work ranges from pointless to one of the best films of all time), writer Jeff Wadlow (who only seems to be finding new depths to his own incompetence, given his latest), or the punch-up work by Underwater co-writer Adam Cozad, but the script makes the mistake of thinking poking at its own derivative parts is enough to excuse them still being here.

It almost stumbles into profundity in how Bloodshot is primed for each mission (which, given the marketing’s lack of subtlety, is a plot twist that kind of knocks the wind out of the film’s sails), like a bloodier Spider-Man: Far From Home… but then it sinks in just how deep the film’s cribbing can get. I mean, it’s a cyberpunk-tinged revenge action thriller; the film’s tagline of “Superheroes are getting an Upgrade” almost feels like an admission of guilt that these guys are trying to ride on Leigh Whannell’s coattails. Add to that how, much like Venom, there’s an unmistakable 90’s gratuity to the whole equation, and this supposed universe jump-starter seems dead on arrival. And that’s without factoring in the lack of butts in seats due to global plague.

But even with that said… I have to admit, there’s still something to like about this. While Blur Studio didn’t have a hand on the visual effects here, the studios that did give a decent amount of muscle to the more detailed moments. It’s because of their work that the film’s occasional musings on the tropes and mechanics of cinema feel intentional, as the literal construction work on display is nicely rendered. Ditto for the reconstruction work on Bloodshot himself, which leads to some cool images.

Then there’s the action scenes themselves, which may peak a little too early and lack consistency to keep things working (it wound up giving me Gemini Man flashbacks at points), but when they peak, they really peak. The initial scene of the revived Bloodshot at work is fucking gorgeous, taking place in a street tunnel where an upturned flour truck has coated everything in mock snow. The lighting, the colour palette, the way the shadows work with the CGI, not to mention how hard the fight choreography hits on its own; this is Leitch/Stahelski-level shit, which is weirdly fitting given they were originally handed the directing gig for this.

But again, that’s just one example, and it’s not necessarily representative of the entertainment value at large. Instead, this is basically just an average action-thriller with occasional moments of inspiration, along with just as many moments of punching above its weight. It shows David S. F. Wilson having some potential in a feature-length outing, and it’s admittedly nice to see comic book cinema coming from somewhere other than the Big Two… but we already have Upgrade; we don’t really need this thing.

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