Zootopia did it so much better.
Bright is the newest Netflix original film to be released — one of their most high-profile to date, as it has a budget of $90 million and already has a sequel that’s been green-lit (for some strange, unknown reason).
Bright takes place in a parallel universe in which creatures like orcs, fairies and elves all exist; yet, it still holds a lot in common with the world we live in today. Set in Los Angeles, all the different species are segregated into different areas — the elves live in the super high-class part of town, the humans make up the middle-class and the orcs, who are all discriminated against and universally hated, take to the slums.
It’s in this setting in which Officers Daryl Ward (Will Smith) and Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton). Their job as police officers, to put it simply, is to keep the peace between the different races. This is a hard enough task as it is, but there’s one component that makes it even more difficult — Nick is an Orc.
The first orc who has ever become a cop, in fact. He’s had this dream ever since he was a little kid, and wouldn’t let anyone stand in his way. Now he’s here and he’s made it, but at a cost; all the orcs have disowned him for living with the humans, and all the humans still see him as an Orc. Basically, he’s all alone.
Except for Daryl, that is. While the two don’t necessarily get along all that well, they do find themselves head-over-heels in a case that threatens to disrupt the world as they know it. After stumbling upon an illegal magic compound (magic isn’t unheard of in this world, but it’s rare and very dangerous), they find a magic wand that holds the power to do just about anything.
All Daryl and Nick want to do is see this wand to safety and make sure it’s off the streets. However, once word gets out that this wand exists, everyone wants to try and take it for themselves — meaning Daryl and Nick have to protect it from elves, humans and orcs alike.
The idea and world behind Bright is one that should make for an interesting film. Similar to the Telltale Game The Wolf Among Us, Bright mixes fantastical elements with a realistic worldview to create a wholly unique world in which we want to explore. This world is also one that feels lived in — the characters, setting and situations all feel and look believable, making it all a bit more exciting than it ought to be.
The problem is that Bright doesn’t know how to capitalize on any of this initial set-up. After introducing this intriguing world, the whole movie becomes a jumbled mess as it tries to assemble together a plot. Characters weave in and out of the story, story-points are brought up and then utterly forget and there isn’t any kind of explanation as to who the characters are or where they come from.
Essentially the whole film just boils down to one thing: these two cops found a magic wand (which should be REALLY cool as it has the power to do literally anything, but the only thing we ever see it do in the film is make people and various objects float) that everyone wants. They jump from place to place and get involved in a bunch of loud and poorly edited action scenes. That’s it. The whole things feels all too similar to Suicide Squad, in which Ayer set up an interesting world that then falls apart when he tries to make a story out of it.
That’s not to say that all of the blame falls solely on Ayer’s shoulders, however. There’s some poor writing on Landis’ part as well — who, at one point, said that Bright was going to be his Star Wars (Good one Max).
There’s some clunky dialogue in there and an obvious lack of subtly in some of the metaphors. Using Bright to address social and economic issues is an intriguing one; however, they once again don’t know how to capitalize on this as all the messages are very in your face and preachy.
Unfortunately, Will Smith and Joel Edgerton aren’t able to save the film. Will Smith is basically just playing Will Smith, meaning all his character comes down to is a bunch of snarky one-liners. Joel Edgerton played a more complex personality, but the film never really takes the time to actually explore it. Together, their chemistry never really quite gets there — at least not until the final act of the film.
I was really hoping that Bright was going to be the first Netflix original movie that I could say I love (Netflix does great work with their original television shows, but all of their films have struggled to find an audience), but sadly it isn’t. While there are some interesting ideas at play in Bright, they’re all drowned out by a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be. (Seriously, there are, like, four or five different movies at play here that are all clumsily stitched together to dissatisfying results.)
Watch the trailer for Bright here, and let us know if you’re going to check this out on Netflix over the holidays in the comments below!
'Training Day' with elves and orcs: 'Bright' movie review4