When it comes to writing a story, there’s no such thing as a bad idea, just bad execution. An extremely talented writer can take a premise that sounds stupid on paper and make something excellent. Just look at films from Pixar. They’ve made cinematic gold out of even the most absurd premises (except for the ones about cars and dinosaurs). It doesn’t matter what the idea is as long as it’s executed well. Just look at the subject of today’s review, which is a Netflix-exclusive blockbuster with a $90 million budget and an interesting premise. Oh, and it’s written by Max Landis, a guy accused of sexual assault and being an overall douchebag, and directed by the same guy behind Suicide Squad. This ought to be something. This is Bright.
In a modern-day world where humans and fantasy creatures like Elves, Orcs, Dwarves, Fairies, etc., coexist, human cop Daryl Ward is partnered with an Orc named Nick Jakoby. During patrol, they come across an Elf and a Magic Wand, which puts them in the crosshairs of nefarious opponents who seek to use the Wand. Now off the bat, the best thing about Bright is the premise. Our modern world combined with fantasy elements isn’t exactly a new thing, but it opens itself up to some interesting possibilities. Sadly, the writing doesn’t deliver as what we get is a fusion of tropes and cliches you’d see in cop dramas and fantasy (plus, allegories of racism, but we’ll get to that later) and neither elements work together or have any reason to coexist with one another.
You’d think with a story like this, the characters would be its saving grace, right? Well… no. Because the characters in this movie are kinda weak. The best ones are our two leads, LAPD officer Daryl Ward (Will Smith) and his Orc partner Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton). Ward is Will Smith being Will Smith, except with a little less charm than usual. His character is basically like a racist white police officer and I think they didn’t cast a white actor for this role because they didn’t want people to hate him. Jakoby ends up being a more likable, charming character as the first Orc to become a police officer. I didn’t care about the other characters. The Elven chick who follows them around, Tikka, does nothing but whimper, scream, and give some exposition. The villains are forgettable; they’re after the Wand to bring back the Dark Lord, who we don’t know anything about. All the human characters were either bland or straight-up assholes. When someone died in this movie, I felt nothing. Actually, that’s not true. I felt anger when Jakoby dies for two reasons: one, because he was the only character I liked, and two, he was brought back to life by Tikka with the Wand, which makes his death completely pointless.
Prejudice. There. I summed up what the movie is about. Well, that’s not the complete picture, but they hammer that message in the first half of the movie. I get what they were trying to do: the Orcs represent black and brown people, the Elves represent white people, etc. But the problem is, again, the writing. When dealing with a subject matter like prejudice, especially in this time and age, it has to be handled with some nuance, which this film lacked. It’s very on-the-nose and obvious and since we can’t connect to most of the characters, it doesn’t leave any significant impact. Will Smith has a line that goes, “fairy lives don’t matter today.” That’s seriously a line in this movie.
Max Landis isn’t a bad writer. I mean, he did write Chronicle and I like that movie. Bright, not so much. There’s also this stupid destiny subplot that takes up the second half of the movie. We all know magic wands are powerful devices that can grant any wish you want. In this movie, only a Bright can possess a Wand, anyone else who tries to wield it dies. Most of the Brights have been Elves, but as one character puts it, there have been a few human Brights. By that point, I said, “Will Smith is a Bright.” Lo and behold, he was. Even a blind man can see that twist coming a mile away.
I give Bright a 3/10. This is what happens if Training Day and Zootopia had a baby and that baby was dropped on its head from the moment of birth. There was so much potential within this movie: a fantasy set in modern times with Elves and Orcs and magic. But instead of at least something interesting, we got a film that’s just plain dull. The characters are stock, the editing is choppy, the writing is shit, and it left a lot of unanswered questions. It’s like they want to expand this world with a sequel, which has been greenlit. If I have to follow these characters for another film, then I’m out because this film was a waste of time. With the way it’s set up, Bright felt less like a movie and more like an extended pilot of a TV show, which would’ve worked in its favor. If you don’t have Netflix, then let me tell you: this is not worth the subscription. I would easily advise you to skip this and watch Training Day or Zootopia instead, which did what this was trying to do, but better.