Written by Aaron Radcliff:
Netflix has done rather well for itself recently, especially when it comes to making their own films. Both Okja and Mudbound showed just what type of limits Netflix can reach with the right crew behind the project. So when the first trailer for Bright dropped earlier this year, there was widespread interest in the project. A buddy-cop action movie in a fantasy world with humans, orcs, elves, and more. What could go wrong?
A lot, actually.
As stated, Bright takes place in an alternate reality where real life and magic live hand-in-hand. The story focuses on Officer Ward (Will Smith) who returns to duty after being shot due to his orc partner, Jakoby’s, (Joel Edgerton) lack of focus on the job. After the perpetrator escapes, everyone on the force, including Ward, think Jakoby’s allegiance is actually with his fellow orcs as growing hatred makes the workplace more uncomfortable. Soon, the duo find themselves in the midst of a growing conflict when they find a magic wand as they must protect it and its owner from those wishing to use the wand for themselves and an even greater evil.
The idea of mythical creatures living alongside humans isn’t a new concept, but what was meant to be the selling point was the modern setting and the focus be on two police officers rather than every day people. One could easily say that director David Ayer’s forte is with police dramas. His work with S.W.A.T., Training Day, and End of Watch shows that he is somebody who cares about those in law enforcement and that he is capable of crafting a dramatic story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. But that doesn’t happen at all here.
That blame can be placed at the feet of writer Max Landis. What Landis tries to present is an action movie with different social commentaries to tell but they all fall flat and seem disingenuous. The story tries to touch upon racism but we never get any resolution to the problem (‘Oh, we have to survive a night of chaos and danger? Well I guess you’re ok even though I’d still hate you otherwise’). Class divide, life in the ghetto, and racism are all referenced yet never really addressed outside of these-guys-suck-because-reasons scenes and throw-away dialogue. Elves are the rich, humans the middle class, and the poor/people who live in the ghettos are orcs that live in a giant us-against-the-world collective and that’s all we get.
Fine, whatever, I can let that go. But what about the lore of this world? Well, there’s practically none of that. There’s reference multiple times to The Dark Lord (who we never even see) and of a prophecy but outside of a quick line or two, there’s no further exploration into the topic (obviously setting up for the already announced sequel). There’s no explanation on what a Bright is other than they can use a magic wand and not die. We’re just told things and expected to go along with it without even elaborating. At one point Jakoby says something along the lines of, “Orcs were on the wrong side 2,000 years ago and now everyone hates us.” Why? Did you side with the Dark Lord? Is the Dark Lord actually Sauron and this is actually some bastardized Lord of the Rings spinoff? We never know because that’s all that’s said. I’m all for showing without telling but you need to at least tell me a little bit rather than “Humans hate orcs, orcs hate humans. Pair them together and watch the cookiness.”
Ok, so what about the action? That has to be good, right? Not really.
That’s a bit unfair. The action scenes are fine and they are decently choreographed and there’s a car chase that’s relatively entertaining. But I want my action to be meaningful OR so stupidly over-the-top that I can’t help but enjoy it. Unfortunately we’re stuck in the middle. It’s just noise. Bland and boring. If it were a sandwich, it’d be mayonnaise-only on white bread.
While I’m at it, I may as well crucify the acting. Nobody seems even remotely interested in anything that’s going on and they deliver their lines like they don’t even know what the plot is. The only one who really tries to actually be interesting and emotive is Joel Edgerton and that still doesn’t come across because he’s covered under an ungodly amount of makeup. The Fresh Prince feels more like he’s fresh out of cares to give and is only there for the paycheck. It feels as though everyone couldn’t be bothered to phone in phoning it in.
I’m sure a lot of people will probably enjoy Bright. I’m also not going to write off the people involved in this because they are all quite good at their jobs. This just happened to be one of those instances where it felt like the executives thought they could skate by on star power alone and nothing else and everything would turn out peachy. But it didn’t. It turned out like a poisoned orchard.
At the end of the day, Bright just sucks.
I’d normally try to find a more creative way to say that but I refuse to put in more effort than anyone involved in this movie.
Score: 4 out of 10
Image via Netflix