REVIEW: Bright (2017)

Release Poster – Netflix

The following is a review of Bright — Directed by David Ayer.

2017 has been a remarkable year for Netflix, in that they’ve given us a handful of great films to be watched in the comfort of our own homes, as well as some great seasons of television. Okja, The Meyerowitz Stories, and Mudbound are terrific Netflix original films. But none of those films were this year’s biggest Netflix risk: Bright, on the other hand, is, and, unfortunately, the first Netflix blockbuster, which reportedly has a budget of $90 million, is a disappointment.

I have a great deal of admiration for Netflix. Sure, some cinema purists see the streaming service as the grim reaper effectively starting to kill off the theater-going experience, but I appreciate the way that Netflix has allowed an international audience to be a part of a conversation about great television and feature-length films without the need for different release windows.

Adam Sandler straight-to-Netflix films (not including The Meyerowitz Stories) like The Ridiculous Six may be watched a lot on the streaming service, but quality films they are not. Similarly, I suspect Bright from David Ayer, the director of Suicide Squad, and Max Landis, the writer of such films as American Ultra and Chronicle, will be appealing to those people who browse Netflix late at night to find a movie with a familiar face.

“Only a bright can control the power of the wand — The Great Prophecy, 7:15”

Bright is a genre mash-up of Tolkienesque fantasy and buddy cop films in the style of gritty police dramas. A Tolkienesque-version of Graham Baker’s Alien Nation. Bright takes place in a world where elves and orcs and centaurs live among us. It tells the story of two unlikely Los Angeles P.D. partners — the human Daryl Ward, and Nick Jakoby, the first orc cop — who become in possession of a magic wand that may be used to bring back a ‘Dark Lord.’

It’s no secret that I hate Suicide Squad, and, looking back on it, I wasn’t harsh enough on it in my original review of that film. But I actually really like David Ayer’s End of Watch, so I was pretty interested in this film from the get-go. Add to that, the fact that writer Max Landis, at one point, said Bright could be his Star Wars, and, suddenly, this film becomes fairly intriguing. But Star Wars it certainly is not. Actually, I think it might be one of the worst movies of the year.

“Fairy lives don’t matter today.” – Daryl Ward, played by Will Smith.

Because then the movie started, and I, immediately, got Suicide Squad vibes — dirty streets, endless amounts of graffiti-covered walls, and an opening song that could’ve just as easily been inserted into Ayer’s Suicide Squad. As the film got going, it almost felt, to me, like the film couldn’t decide whether it wanted to focus on the magic and the fantasy elements, or one of the most unsubtle allegories for racism in fantasy films.

The rest of the film is dirty, uninspiring, and, frankly, loud. It also just becomes really predictable — you can see the ending coming from a mile away. Is the concept interesting? Well, sure, but I was uncompelled by the overall plot and the villains. I didn’t get a firm grasp on what exactly was unique about the history of the world. There is a throwaway line about how the Battle of the Alamo still happened, though.

I thought the action scenes were fairly dull — even more so than what we got in Ayer’s Suicide Squad — and I think the moment where it clicked for me that this movie wasn’t working at all, was when, at one point, Will Smith’s characters turns around in slow-motion and shoots four or five throwaway characters while a slow song played. It didn’t work for me.

Many of the characters are stereotypes, and several fantasy races are drawn from racial stereotypes. But, really, the one character that worked for me here was Joel Edgerton’s Nick Jakoby, the aforementioned first orc cop. It is a bit ironic that the main character wearing orc prosthetics and make-up gives the stand out performance.

Edgerton is downright unrecognizable, but Will Smith, who used to be one of the most popular actors out there, is not as lucky. Will Smith continues his cold streak by being in another poor film. Smith needs to take a closer look at the scripts that he is accepting, if he wants to be the bankable star that we all used to love. Netflix’s first attempt at blockbuster filmmaking is surprisingly dull and a huge letdown.

3.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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