In the weeks before the coronavirus pandemic reached the United States and started shutting down Hollywood and the theater industry, Vin Diesel's Bloodshot was getting ready to make its long-awaited debut. Diesel's one of the biggest names in Hollywood, so at the time, it stood to reason a fresh comic book franchise bearing his likeness would perform admirably at the box office — right? Then, the week Bloodshot was set to release, most municipalities across the country started going into lockdown mode, prohibiting residents from going to theaters and other places where they'd help enable the spread of COVID-19.
A bright box office future for Bloodshot ended up falling flat on its face, grossing just $30.8 million worldwide against a reported production budget of $45 million. Even then, DMG Entertainment and its studio partners are moving full steam ahead on the Valiant Cinematic Universe in hopes of launching Hollywood's next major franchise, coronavirus woes be damned.
Speaking with DMG head Dan Mintz via Zoom, one thing was immediately apparent — the producer fully intends to bring the Valiant Cinematic Universe to life come Hell or high water. Sitting on his balcony basking in the sun, avoid contact with the outside world, the filmmaker-turned-producer infectiously chatted up the entire Valiant catalog, outlining the steps he'll take to turn it into Hollywood's next big deal.
As Mintz tells us, he's fully aware Bloodshot was the "test-tube baby" for the VOD route many studios and distributors have opted to take during the pandemic instead of delaying theatrical releases. "Releasing it right away on VOD, it did really well, it was number one and it did great on Amazon," the producer says of the Bloodshot VOD release. "In that respect, I think it went well."
Is a better-than-average home media haul enough to warrant a follow-up, let alone an entire interconnected universe? Mintz says absolutely, and he points towards Lionsgate's John Wick as an example. The Keanu Reeves-starring vehicle is well-known in Tinsel Town for producing high-action flicks with micro-budgets. Even though the first film in the franchise made around $86 million globally, it still managed to turn a sizable profit.
Mintz stopped short of confirming Bloodshot 2 was in active development at Sony, though he didn't seem worried about getting Diesel back to reprise the role. He wouldn't touch on the specifics of the star's contract, saying fans would only need to take a look at Diesel's social media to know whether or not he'll return to the franchise. "First of all, he was very passionate about it. I think you saw that in social media," Mintz says. "He understands the power of it and his kids and his family understand it, who gives him a lot of kind of motivation and understanding. So yeah, I think there's a lot of commitment to that."
At one point, Sony had the rights to both Bloodshot and Harbinger as Mintz and his production outfit aimed to build the universe at the Culver-City based studio. Then, in the waning moments of 2019, Paramount snatched the rights to Harbinger up, creative team, and all. As it stands now, Harbinger still has a release date of 2021, though it has yet to begin pre-production planning in earnest. Mintz says the entire creative team is in place, a script has been written, and the production had even started to cast before being halted due to coronavirus-related shutdowns.
Despite having two separate studios involved, Mintz says there's still the opportunity for Bloodshot to appear in the remaining VCU movies currently in development at Paramount. Though the producer compares the iconic Valiant character to Marvel's Blade and crossovers with the character aren't organic, he says they've learned enough from Marvel's Spider-Man and X-Men rights fiasco and made sure to avoid the prohibition of crossovers between studios.
That said, a massive Endgame-level Harbinger Wars crossover isn't something immediately in the plans. Even if a cross-studio crossover doesn't take place, everything Valiant puts out will be canon and share the same continuity, regardless of platform or studio involved.
If Harbinger Wars isn't in the works right now, what exactly, is in the immediate plans, then? Harbinger is a priority for both DMG and Paramount. After that, it's building an interconnected universe between film, television, and publishing. The producer confirms Joe and Anthony Russo — yes, that Joe and Anthony Russo — are still connected to a Quantum & Woody television show. In fact, Mintz says the brothers are "very much involved" in the development of the property in its current format.
He also confirmed active conversations in the world of streaming, though he wouldn't say what platforms he's actively courting. As he points out, Netflix could be a perfect partner now that it's without Marvel's "DefendersVerse" of Daredevil, The Punisher, and company. "Obviously there's a hole missing there, right? I mean, that's not around anymore," he says. "So, yes, 100%, I think that there's a real need for what we have."
Outside of Bloodshot, Harbinger, and Quantum & Woody, Mintz tells us he's also chomping at the bit to bring other Valiant favorites like Shadowman and Ninjak into the fold sooner rather than later. Even with the current conditions, the producer says the VCU is picking up some serious momentum, something he and his team hope to carry forward with Harbinger and afterwards, launch the next big thing in Hollywood.
"There's a lot of wind to its back and it gives confidence to other studios and other partners to really step up and push these things forward," the filmmaker says of the VCU and its future projects. "So, I'm feeling good about all of that, and that rollout to me is very, very clear. It's very, very clear because A, you have two studios rolling stuff out, and then B you also have us rolling things out."
When it comes to an overall plan, Mintz says it's important to get the canvas ready before you paint. Serving as the Kevin Feige of the VCU, the producer tells us it's his job to make sure everyone stays on that canvas, regardless of what they want to paint. That canvas being the hyper-connected Valiant Cinematic Universe.
"Set the voice, set the pace, make sure that it holds up, and then within that, you have an amazing amount of creativity," Mintz tells us. "People always want to just have as much playroom as you can, but if you notice, some of the most successful pictures are really not very good canvases."0comments
Mintz concludes, "You can be as creative as you want within that, but you can't go off and start painting on the wall, or on the floor, or whatever, which often happens. Now, you can bring your voice and bring your vision, and bring your talent. It really is a collaborative platform, but it definitely needs that canvas."
Bloodshot is now available wherever movies are sold.