By Andrew Rodden | Illustration by Cate Johnson
There is something special about seeing a big, simplistic action film in the movie theater; it’s an experience unlike any other. Sure, the popcorn and soda will empty your wallet, but watching an action movie in the theater can offer a form of escapism difficult to find anywhere else. This means that movies made for an IMAX experience, like David Wilson’s 2020 film “Bloodshot,” suffer from not having a theatrical release. Since it is physically dangerous to attend a movie showing right now, our personal television sets and sound systems will have to do.
Based on the Valiant comic book character, “Bloodshot” is about former U.S. Marine Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) who is brought back from the dead by tech mogul Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce). Waking up with no recollection of his past life, Harting and a team of other super soldiers (featuring Eliza González and Toby Kebbell) explain to Ray that his blood has been replaced with billions of regenerative nanobots granting him super strength and immense invulnerability to injury. As memories start to flow back, Ray recalls the brutal killing of his wife (Talulah Riley) and sets off to enact revenge on the man who killed her.
The visual spectacle in “Bloodshot” is easily its most appealing element. Fight scenes are beautifully shot (albeit stiffly edited) and boast spectacular lighting and production design. At one point in the film, Ray hijacks a flour truck and crashes it into a caravan of evil goons, covering a highway tunnel with tons of flour. The ensuing fight scene utilizes slow motion and abstract red and blue lighting to convey a scene that is impressively surreal.
It is easy to become numb to the intense violence of the movie, though perhaps it was limited by its PG-13 rating. A movie like “Bloodshot” relies on the shock value of its violence, and to limit shocking imagery inherently limits its potential to entertain.
There is so much rich thematic content brought up in “Bloodshot:” eugenics, commodification of the body, rage, and revenge. However, none of this is given serious thought in the film. By touching on so much and diving deep into so little, the film wastes the opportunity to say something smart about a world that is constantly changing what it means to be human. We are already intimately linked to our smartphones, computers, Apple watches, and television sets; is it only a matter of time before nanobot-infused blood can bring us back from the dead?
“Bloodshot” does little to interrogate this in a serious way, leaving audiences with flashy visual effects (though spectacular considering the relatively small budget of $45 million dollars) and shallow exposition posing as philosophical discourse. For a movie that has so much potential to say something interesting about personhood within capitalist society, it leaves so much unexamined.
While it is almost painful to watch another comic book movie that hollowly entertains without deeper substance, “Bloodshot” helped me understand the appeal of movie theaters now more than ever. It’s difficult to overwhelm your senses in the same way the silver screen and Dolby Digital surround sound do — home entertainments systems just can’t compare. A trip to the theater is an experience unlike any other. I, for one, cannot wait until we can safely return to the cathedrals of cinema.