MOVIE REVIEW: Bright

 

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Written by Paul Wright

Bright, the new film starring Will Smith and directed by David Ayer, is notable for being Netflix’s first major foray into big screen quality blockbuster film making. When I first heard what the movie was about when Netflix announced it and when they released the first trailers, I immediately loved the concept. Bright is a fantasy/buddy cop action movie that takes place in a contemporary Los Angelos that feels extremely similar to our own, but with elves, orcs, fairies, dragons, and all kinds of other fantasy creatures living along side humans. It’s almost like if we saw what Middle Earth had become in 2017. Will Smith plays LAPD officer Daryl Ward, saddled with the unenviable task of being partnered with the first Orc police officer, Nick Jakoby played by Joel Edgerton in full make up. The humans hate Jakoby because he’s an Orc, the Orcs hate Jakoby because they think he’s a traitor to their race, and even Will Smith’s Ward is on the LAPD shit list just for working with the guy. On a random call, Ward and Jakoby stumble across a scared elf girl, named Tikka with a magic wand, which is a much bigger deal than it sounds. These wands are not only very rare, but so powerful and dangerous that only a few elves and very, very few humans can touch the wand directly without exploding. People who can use the wands are called “Brights”, hence the film’s title. But anyone can use it as long as they have protective gloves or something. Word quickly gets out to many interested parties that a magic wand is up for grabs and the shit hits the fan, with Ward, Jakoby, and Tikka just trying to make it through the night without getting killed. So, this movie is basically End Of The Watch meets Tolkien.

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Behind the scenes includes an interesting mixed bag of guys who’ve done both amazing and terrible work. Star Will Smith has some classics under his belts and some of the worst movies I’ve seen (After Earth is an abortion of a film). David Ayer directed End of The Watch and Fury as well as writing Training Day, but he gave us the travesty that was Suicide Squad. The film’s writer, Max Landis, is a controversial figure, but a brilliant writer under the right circumstances. He wrote the film

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Chronicle and two of the best comic books I’ve read in recent memory: Superman: American Alien and Green Valley. But he’s had his share of clunkers, having written Victor Frankenstein and Mr. Right (he also wrote American Ultra which I kind of liked). So, based on the people working behind the scenes, we could get something that is incredible or a piece of shit.

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Fortunately, I really enjoyed Bright, but it’s not for everyone. One of the best aspects of this film is it’s world building. It’s crafted one of the more interesting movie universes I’ve seen in a long time and I really hope we see a sequel, even just to see them go deeper into this world. I don’t think that there’s ever been anything quite like Bright. Yes. there have been many shitty urban fantasy, action films taking place in modern day (Like the Underworld series for example). What makes Bright unique is that in other (usually shitty) fantasy/supernatural actions films, the fantasy element is always part of this hidden, secret world or society which is kept hidden from mankind. There’s no divide between humans and fantasy creatures in Bright, no secret world to be uncovered. The movie has a great lived in feel, with details that make the world feel very authentic. A lot of thought was put into, what would a contemporary Los Angelos where humans and fantasy creatures who’ve lived among one another for thousands of years look like? And it shows onscreen. The movie does a fantastic job of doing some of the best world building I’ve seen on film in awhile, without getting bogged down in exposition. Once the movie gets going it doesn’t really slow down.

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I really liked Will Smith and Joel Edgerton as partners. Yes, it’s a troupe we’ve seen many, many, many times before, but I still enjoyed watching them on screen together (even though I knew where every beat in their relationship would go). I definitely want to see where their story goes after seeing how things play out in the movie. Unfortunately, there are a few great character actors that are completely under used, including the villain played by Noomi Rapace.

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There are some fun action sequences, but most of it isn’t anything you haven’t seen before. The real draws here are Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, and the excellent world building and mythology that the movie creates. The film tries its hand at some social commentary with the way the different races (elves, human, orcs) are treated in society. As well as the prejudice and hatred Jakoby is faced with when he joins the police force. Some of it kind of works, especially the Jakoby cop stuff, but the movie doesn’t strive to go that deep into these ideas.

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This movie was conceived as a multi film story and I’m pretty sure Netflix has already given the sequel a green light. There are little bits throughout the film that hint at where a sequel may go. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much if this was a theatrical release, I most likely would have wanted something more. Honestly, it would probably work much better as a TV series. However, despite it’s flaws I really hope we get a series if these flicks.

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This movie has (for the most part) received a critical thrashing that it absolutely does not deserve. It’s by no means high art, but it certainly isn’t bad. Basically, If you’re not into these types of flicks or you didn’t like the trailer, there’s nothing in Bright that’s going to win you over. But if you saw the trailer and were intrigued, or you enjoy fantasy/action/buddy cop movies, I’d say keep your expectations in check and definitely check out Bright. Odds are you’ll have a good time with it. Bright is definitely something fun to watch over the Christmas weekend. I know I enjoyed it.

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(Joel Edgerton who played Nick Jakoby with his make up. AKA “Oh, yeah. That guy”)

 

Bright is available on Netflix now.

Bright: 7.5/10

As always, thanks for reading!

– Paul

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