Netflix is starting to step up its game and produce not only original television, but now massive original movies, which Bright is one of the biggest (and most expensive). But just because it’s big and costly, does that mean it’s good?
Imagine if Lord of the Rings continued for thousands of years and everyone evolved just the way we have and now we have current day, where humans and orcs and elves all live side by side… that’s what Bright is about. We follow two LAPD officers, one of which is the first-ever orc police officer named Nick (Joel Edgerton). The human partner Ward (Will Smith) was recently shot by an orc, though Nick somehow let him go and Ward has the suspicion that Nick still places orcs over police, so he doesn’t trust him. The actual plot kicks in when the two of them discover a magic wand, only able to be used by magic users called Brights. A traumatized elf named Tikka (Lucy Fry) informs them that a sect of elves are seeking the wand, hoping to use it to resurrect their dark master (this group led by Noomi Rapace).
We have a few other notable actors including Edgar Ramirez, Ike Barinholtz, Margaret Cho, and Jay Hernandez.
This world is fascinating and the mythology they’re setting up here in the star of the show. There are some unexplained bits that can leave you tripping over the details (like why fairies are treated like rodents yet other races are humanized). This would have been a better television show, so that they could really dive into all of these interesting facets of the world. We see a dragon cameo at some point, but it’s never brought up. How would a dragon coexist in this world? I want to know!
I also applaud writer Max Landis (Chronicle, American Ultra) for trying to layer this film with allusions to race, not so subtly. There’s an argument that it didn’t go as far as it could have and maybe didn’t succeed as an allegory but I thought it was interesting to watch unfold.
While Will Smith is the same Will Smith we’ve always seen, the standout in the cast is Joel Edgerton, who manages to wear full facial prosthetics but still gives an incredible performance, making our lead orc a three-dimensional character. He’s conflicted about other orcs but his dedication is to the badge and he really sells it here.
Lastly, the action sequences are pretty cool. The elves especially are master martial artists, so tons of flips and wirework make their fight scenes very engrossing.
Like I said, this would’ve been more successful as a show. They’ve already greenlit a sequel with (at least) Will Smith returning, so that’s hopeful, but there’s a lot of questions left unanswered and rich mythology they haven’t explored. A sequel might help make this first installment feel more complete.
Because this plot has to unfold and be concluded in a short span, the plot gets a little unwieldy. They want to include so much that it gets jumbled and it’s easy to lose track of what’s going on. There are a lot of characters here and it doesn’t always feel necessary. A simpler story could’ve benefited both the plot and the characters, giving us more time to really take in this world.
Along with the quick nature of the movie comes a problem with the villain (and really a lot of the supporting characters). A lot of characters feel one-dimensional. The villain’s drive is singular but I think she only says a few lines throughout the entire movie, most of them in the big action climax. Until then, she’s just a force that you see occasionally. The same is true for Edgar Ramirez, who plays an elf in the “FBI for magic” essentially. No idea who he is or what he wants, he’s just around.
Lastly, director David Ayer loves to shoot dark sequences, most of this movie taking place at night. It’s all very bland to look at and looks very reminiscent of his work with End of Watch and Suicide Squad especially.
Bright is a mixed bag. The world is fascinating but this movie covers very little of it. Will Smith is himself but Joel Edgerton does a standup job, really serving as the only character with any sort of depth. The other characters, including the villain, get very little to do or say yet the movie has tons of characters that serve very little purpose. Since it’s on Netflix, it’s worth a watch, but just go in and enjoy the interesting world they’ve set up here.