Hard science, no universe: How 'Bloodshot' aims to reboot superhero movies

Director Dave Wilson and Hivemind's Dinesh Shamdasani and Hunter Gorinson unpack the surprise superhero movie of 2020.

Bloodshot Vin Diesel

The world is overrun with Marvel and DC superheroes on the big screen. But in 2020, a ghostly white super soldier from a different universe will enter the fray, and superhero movies might never be the same.

In February 2020, Sony Pictures will release Bloodshot, the first Hollywood adaptation of a Valiant Comics character. But while Bloodshot is based on a best-selling comic, the filmmakers insist it is unlike anything else with capes and cowls. Rather than compete against Marvel and DC, Bloodshot aims to stand apart as a loving tribute to the gritty, violent, sci-fi and action blockbusters of the ‘80s and ‘90s.

“We’re not following a tried and tested movie structure,” says producer Dinesh Shamdasani, former Valiant CEO and Chief Content Officer, in an interview with Inverse. “That is very rare in a post-internet age, where you legitimately don’t know what’s going to happen. The opportunities are endless.”

Along with Shamdasani is Hunter Gorinson, VP Brand & Content Strategy at Hivemind, the film’s production company. “Movies like Robocop and Total Recall, some of my favorite movies, they don’t feel safe,” he says. “The stakes are high concept. Bloodshot has that sense that anything can happen.”

Directed by Dave Wilson and starring Vin Diesel, Bloodshot follows Ray Garrison, a U.S. soldier in a top-secret program that injects millions of nanomachines into his bloodstream, endowing him with superpowers. Adopting the name “Bloodshot,” Ray begins a crimson-soaked journey of revenge against the people who made him inhuman.

The film’s trailer, released Monday, will be attached to the theatrical release of Terminator: Dark Fate on November 1. But weeks ago at New York Comic Con, director Dave Wilson and producers Shamdasani and Gorinson — both of whom were involved in bringing Valiant Comics back from bankruptcy in 2012 — revealed to Inverse what kind of anti-superhero movie awaits in Bloodshot.

“It’s not a traditional superhero origin movie,” Gorinson says. “When we were working on the film from the jump, [we asked ourselves] why does Bloodshot feel different from any other ‘superhero’ movie out there? That starts with the visual aesthetic. It’s very much reflected in that.”

“A lot of our frames [look like] Ridley Scott and Michael Bay,” says Shamdasani. “When Vin Diesel is onscreen and there’s extreme foliage in the foreground, that gives you this sense of compression that mimics the emotional state of the character. Those are techniques we haven’t seen enough of.”

He adds, “Marvel and DC try to imitate commercial comic books, which are symmetrical in terms of framing, colors, clean frames, clean movements. But when we talk about our favorite comics, they’re not like that. They’re Dutch angles and grittier. This film is closer to that.”

There are no bombastic plans for a “Valiant Cinematic Universe.” Bloodshot will only feature Bloodshot and his world, and whatever sequels emerge will be tied exclusively to Bloodshot.

“When we were at Valiant [Comics], there was a philosophy that the best idea wins. For us, that meant the shared universe. Valiant is the only universe built from the ground up to be a shared universe,” he explains. “If we’re going to carve out a legacy in film, then it needs to take every opportunity to be unique. The philosophy now is different. The shared universe is not a top priority.”

Valiant Bloodshot
Cover of 'Bloodshot' #1, from the 2012 relaunch of Valiant Comics. Former Valiant CEO and Chief Content Officer, Dinesh Shamdasani, is serving as producer on the live-action 'Bloodshot' movie, due in 2020.

But Bloodshot is more than an argument against bloated cinematic universes. Dave Wilson, who has spent most of his career at Blur Studios producing cinematic trailers for gaming’s biggest hits (including 2013’s BioShock: Infinite, and 2016’s The Division), aims to ground Bloodshot in the authentic realities of nano-computing and human physiology.

“I grew up reading science fiction, but there’s a subset of science fiction I love: science fact,” he says. “My favorite authors are Michael Crichton and Daniel Suarez. That’s what Bloodshot is to me. Bloodshot found a technical grounding in the comics that the huge nerd I am can get behind.”

Wilson consulted with the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA to learn more about the technology at the heart of the film. He jokes the professors there “will be horribly disappointed” by the film’s depiction of nanotech.

“We went to UCLA. We’re a few years out from doing what we do [in the movie], the concept of having microscopic, robotic organisms in your bodies that can deliver medicine. That is not far away. We use that as a base and take a giant leap. But even the labs and how we built them, I wanted the Tesla factory version and not Tony Stark’s lab of holograms.”

That affinity for bleeding-edge tech extends beyond the film’s plot and into its visual effects. Bloodshot’s distinctive white skin and red eyes from the comics will feature in the film; Diesel’s look will be completed through visual effects still in development, which is why it’s not in the trailer. Thee goal of achieving that look that allowed Wilson to nerd out about bridging the gap between scientific realism and comic book madness.

“I can’t just put a red dot on his chest, I have to have a reason why that exists,” he says. There have been few and far explanations in the comics, so Wilson found a reason in how the human body actually behaves.

“When someone says you’ve seen a ghost, that happens because in a stressful situation, your body suppresses non-vital functions. Your body is in fight or flight mode. You’re gonna punch someone in the face or you’re going to run away. Your skin goes pale because in keeping blood flowing to the skin is not a vital function at that moment in time. The nanites are overclocking all your body’s functions. That is why his skin goes pale.”

“The Valiant comic books look like the world we live in,” adds Shamdasani. “The four-color world of Marvel movies, they do a great job doing Jack Kirby costumes, but their world is kind of cartoon.”

Bloodshot will be released in theaters on February 21, 2020.

Correction 10/22/19: This article previously said Hunter Gorinson was a producer on Bloodshot. He is VP Brand & Content Strategy and a producer on various Hivemind projects, but not on Bloodshot.