Netflix’s first big foray into blockbuster filmmaking, Bright, comes courtesy of End of Watch director David Ayer, Chronicle scribe Max Landis, and prominently stars the Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith. I’ve previously enjoyed the works of these three men, but haven’t felt quite right in recent years regarding each of their respective output in the industry. I mean, Ayer was also responsible for the absolutely reprehensible Suicide Squad from last year, Landis is now potentially (and perhaps unsurprisingly) a piece of human garbage, and Will Smith hasn’t made a truly good film since The Pursuit of Happyness all the way back in 2006 (I Am Legend is alright too, but that’s also 10 years old now). After viewing Bright, I may have to reconsider the quickly fading fandom I have for any of the people responsible in the making of this movie (except in regards to Landis, because if what is coming out about him is actually true, then there will be no reconsidering — only regret). What I’m trying to tell you, is that Bright really is as bad as all of the critics are saying it is.
But let’s start with the little that Bright does get right, shall we? Well, the film actually introduces a compelling enough premise; one in which the lore in fantasy stories like The Lord of the Rings aren’t only relegated to the Middle Ages, and have instead been fast-forwarded to a present-day Los Angeles that’s not too dissimilar to our very own version. Of course, what makes the film stand out is that this world inhabits humans among orcs, elves, and fairies, as well as the magic that come with them. In one of the film’s only noteworthy pieces of dialogue, we are even presented with the idea of a great, millennia-old war having been fought between the humans and the mythological creatures that still live beside them today. When you realize that this single, seemingly throwaway line is among the only notable pieces of dialogue in this thing — outside of the many quotable bad ones — you can truly begin to understand why Bright is as awful as it is.
The proceedings follow L.A.P.D. Officer Ward (Smith) and his new partner, Jakoby, who just so happens to be the first-ever orc policeman (played by an unrecognizable Joel Edgerton within a mediocre orc makeup). The world’s eyes are cemented on this pair; everyone waiting with bated breath to see if an orc really has what it takes to be a solid policeman and not just a lowlife, like is commonly expected of his kind. You see, in this universe, orcs are typically reduced to working the lowliest of jobs, and many roam the gang-ridden streets of South Central L.A. On the other end of the spectrum are the elves, who are typically among the wealthiest in the country. When the pair answers a call which results in them stumbling upon a coveted magic wand, they become ensnared in a struggle for the much desired item between their crooked colleagues, human and orc gangs, as well as a group of wealthy elf assassins which the wand originally belonged to.
Of course, the film turns out to be a commentary on various social constructs — as well as primarily focusing on discrimination and diversity — but Ayer and Landis only half-assedly present the idea of these political and social issues that currently mire our country, and absolutely fail when it comes time to actually say anything meaningful in response. The through line of the plot, which is decidedly rote and predictable, includes cookie-cutter “twists” and age-old tropes that have been in any and all crooked cop/diversity dramas for the last 50 years. There really isn’t much of anything exciting or new here, which causes a real fatigue to set in only about 1/4 of the way through its runtime.
Besides the uneventful storyline — which also submits the year’s most underwhelming villain in Noomi Rapace’s completely forgettable elf character, Leilah — Bright also suffers due to its terribly edited, ugly, and completely dissatisfying action sequences. While the script’s overall commentary on our society is exceedingly one-note and is disappointing in itself, there could have at least been some sort of saving grace for this movie in its many scenes of grisly action. But the always-dull gunfights mostly consist of Will Smith damn-near never missing a single shot, while the bad guys he’s blasting at retain a laughable, Stormtrooper-like accuracy, and seriously must be blind in order to not land hits when their targets are only five feet away. Even worse is when the film resorts to any hand-to-hand combat. These moments always looks stilted, as the film relies on too many poorly edited cuts that seriously detract from the flow of action.
There’s an idea hidden deep within Bright’s core that, if salvaged by the correct filmmakers, could actually result in a good film (and it looks like maybe we’ll get the chance to one day see what that could be, as Netflix has already fast-tracked a sequel). What we’ve been left with here, though, is a misguided, boring, and ultimately bad movie that isn’t worth any of your time.
1 star out of 5
Bright is now available to stream on Netflix.
— Michael Lane, Blog Editor