With the new Bloodshot movie recently hitting theaters, can we foresee a VCU?
No. The short answer is no.
The Long Answer
Let’s go all the way back to 2008. It was a good year for comic book movies and two films paved the way for what would come next.
Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Iron Man in the first eponymous film was a chance. He was an actor who had shined brightly in the eyes of the media and had fallen from grace in drug abuse. His career was beginning to turn around, but the unimaginable heights in which he would now soar were just that: unimaginable. Iron Man brought a reality to comic book movies that had never been present before. X-Men had been around, but there was a little too much leather. Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man had started off strong, but the third installment left such a bad taste in our mouths it’s tough to acknowledge the quality of the first two. Do I need to mention Daredevil or Elektra?
Iron Man brought a flawed character to the screen. Not flawed in his innocence (like Peter Parker) but flawed in his guilt.
Batman and The Joker
We can all count our blessings that The Dark Knight trilogy occurred inside of Christopher Nolan’s Batman universe and outside of the larger DCU. (We can only wonder what would have happened if Warner Bros doubled down on the grittiness and went with Nolan over Snyder as the visionary of the emerging DCU.) We’re lucky we had a generational filmmaker at the helm of the Batman films. Nolan’s vision added gravity, consequences, and complexity to a character that had been previously seen as a goof. (Not that we don’t love Adam West) Once you add one of the best living actors to the mix, Christian Bale, it’s hard to mess it up. And don’t forget the performance that still serves as the benchmark for all superheroes and villains forevermore. RIP Heath Ledger.
Looking at Bloodshot against the backdrop of the two films that really brought superheroes to the forefront, it’s hard to see the same level of impact. It’s late to the game. It’s from a different era. And it’s just not enough. Don’t get me wrong, I love Vin Diesel. But he’s not a great actor dressed up in an action star role, he’s just an action star doing his thing. Which is fine, but it won’t be enough to start a VCU. It won’t be enough for people to care about characters they’ve never even heard of.
A Valiant Cinematic Universe
I’m not planning on seeing the film (metacritic already has a dismal 43 out of 100 rating not to mention the shutting down of all public spaces because of COVID-19) so let’s just look at the trailer. The opening scene is of a man waking up on a table. It’s a character who has no memory. That means no origin story. That means nothing for audiences to grab onto. I get that he has one and that it will surely be revealed throughout the film. But we don’t see Bloodshot as a character first. He’s the anonymous action guy with nanotechnology in his body. He’s not a shady billionaire with a past that’s always going to haunt him. He’s just an action guy. That’s our first impression. That’s it.
But the days of singular action guys are over. The days of singular action women are also numbered. We want stories and we want to connect to the characters and we want to understand and believe what the heck is going on.
And an action guy isn’t enough to build a universe on.