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What Valiant is bringing to superhero movies that Marvel and DC aren't - Exclusive

In March 2020, Sony Pictures released Bloodshot, a sci-fi-tinged superhero film starring Vin Diesel that stands on its own as an engaging, twisty thriller driven by Diesel's commanding movie star presence. By the time the film ends, the stage has been set for a sequel, but the creators behind the film have more in mind than just Bloodshot 2. Apart from being an audience-grabbing action film its own right, Bloodshot was also designed to be the opening volley in the Valiant Cinematic Universe, a shared world based on the heroes, villains, and antiheroes of Valiant Comics. 

While its profile might not be quite as high as those of Marvel Comics and DC Comics, the world of Valiant has its own storied, often unpredictable history — as well as its own diverse, wide-ranging roster of characters. The publisher first appeared in the 1990s, introducing its own brand of heroes to that particularly fertile time for comics, but today, readers might best know Valiant for its acclaimed 2012 relaunch of its entire superhero universe. Because Valiant's resurgence came at the same time Marvel and DC were building universes on the big screen, the Valiant Universe's transition to cinema seemed like a natural next step — and now it's finally here. 

But what does the Valiant Cinematic Universe have to offer in a world already populated by superheroic cinematic universes? At a time when everyone seems to be looking at which pieces of intellectual property they can spin into a tentpole, what does Valiant offer that Marvel and DC don't already have? According to Bloodshot executive producer and Valiant Cinematic Universe mastermind Dan Mintz, quite a lot.

Valiant has a unique worldview, 'much grayer' characters, and a different storytelling approach

Mintz — who previously worked as an executive producer on Looper and Iron Man 3 — took full charge of Valiant through his company, DMG Entertainment, back in 2018 with the goal of elevating the company's film and television production to the "next level." With Bloodshot, that next level is here, and Mintz is hard at work crafting a future universe of characters and individual franchises within the Valiant umbrella. 

Speaking to Looper in an exclusive interview about his perspective on what Valiant has to offer to superhero filmmaking, Mintz focused specifically on the kind of storytelling he feels his characters can present, in part because of the time in which they first emerged.

"Looking at it just from the perspective of the mentality and a product of its time, DC is kind of the '30s, right, when it was really incepted. Obviously, it's been reinvented many times, but it's got those roots that [are] authentic to who they are. Marvel is the '60s, and Valiant is the '90s," said Mintz. "Right from the beginning, the outlook is very different. It's much more of a worldview. The characters are much more diverse. They're much grayer, for sure."

He continued, "One thing that I very much like to focus on in films in general — and [one of] the things that [draws] me into films — is the dilemma. I sit there and I look at a dilemma. If I can look at the screen and go, 'What would I do? I'm not exactly sure what to do,' then I'm in the story. If I look at something and I go, 'Just run out of the house!' or something like that, then it kind of takes you out of it a little bit. I think dilemma is a big part of that."

That kind of dilemma-driven storytelling is certainly present in Bloodshot, which follows a technologically enhanced super-soldier who learns that the way he sees the world has been manipulated by the very people he thought were his saviors. It's that kind of story — when you're not always sure who the good guys are — that Mintz hopes to keep pursuing with Valiant movies, with some very clear stylistic influences thrown in for good measure.

"A Marvel dilemma to me is 'We know who's right, we know who's wrong, now let's watch them go and take care of business.' It's a little bit different [with Valiant]," he explained. "When I look at Valiant films in the future, I really see kind of Inception meets The Wire. Something that's big, something that is very broad, something that grabs you, but also that has a certain amount of grit, has a certain amount of anchor in what's happening in the world, and really delivers a little bit deeper on some characters."

Moving beyond Bloodshot and into the Valiant Cinematic Universe

With Bloodshot out in the world, Mintz and company are looking ahead to what's next — including developing films inspired by Valiant titles like Harbinger and Faith, a plus-sized superhero who's enjoyed her own solo success spinning out of Harbinger. For Mintz, who spent time working in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before he came to Valiant, the challenge now is continuing to make films with a point-of-view that's distinctly Valiant — so much so that he wants viewers to be able to tell they're watching a Valiant film even if they never see the company logo on it. To make brand recognition like that a reality, Mintz told Looper, you don't have to bash or even directly do battle with other superhero universes; you just have to find your place in the wider superhero movie landscape.

"It isn't about who's better, who's worse. This is really about, 'Where's your lane?' The superhighway of superhero cinematic worlds has been built by Marvel and DC, that's for sure, and our lane is very specific," Mintz said. "What is that lane? It really comes back down to what's authentic to who you are. The differentiator is going to be the diversity of the characters."

Bloodshot is available to rent or own now on video on-demand, and recently hit DVD and Blu-ray on May 5.