Few new releases appear to be as polarizing as Netflix original film Bright…well except maybe that little Jedi movie that just came out.
Bright is the odd mashup of the buddy cop film with epic fantasy. Set in a world where 2000 years ago mankind and elves warred with orkish armies of a dark oppressor and in the modern day the orcs are still paying for their ancestor’s decisions. This allows for playing with certain fantasy tropes and their applications as stand-ins for modern day ills such as racism, gangs, police brutality and corruption, etc. Jakoby is a proud officer, wanting nothing more than to be a good cop yet is openly treated with disdain and suspicion by his fellow officers, referred to as a “diversity hire” and bullied in sophomoric ways such as the time honored “kick me” sign taped to his back. Ward doesn’t want Jakoby as his partner, begrudges him for an incident that occurred prior to the start of the film, and spends most of the movie wondering if he can trust his non-human partner.
Joel Edgerton plays Nick Jakoby, Will Smith is his begrudging partner Daryl Ward and both men do a good job juggling the relationship between the two men as the centerpiece of this film. Along the way they encounter Tikka an elvish woman on the run from Leliah (the brilliantly cast Noomi Rapace) and her cohorts as they try to reclaim the wand Tikka stole. In this world wands are treated, as Jakoby says, like “nuclear weapon that grant wishes” and the wand is needed as part of a plot to resurrect their long dead dark lord.
Ward and Jakoby spend the bulk of the movie on the run, chased by gangs (Human and Orc) as well as Leliah and her crew and even their own hostile fellow officers, all sides desiring the wand Tikka stole from Leliah for their own nefarious desires. Admittedly the movie leans hard into tropes from the genres it mashed together but I personally found the nature of the mash-up made the situations less cliche and more inventive than they would have been in the usual buddy-cop or fantasy genre film.
I for one found a lot of entertainment in seeing modern day L.A.P.D. discussing the wish granting qualities of the wand or hearing an Orc in police uniform discussing Prophecy or seeing Elvish folk dressing in high fashion, driving exotic sports cars (and even serving as federal “magic police”).
At the end of the day most movies are meant to be entertainment and I walked away from Bright entertained. It isn’t a perfect film, nor is it high art but it was entertaining through and through.
I like the premise a whole, in fact it was something I’ve been asking for for a long, long time in that it was a fantasy world brought to modern day instead of perpetually remaining in the dark ages (nothing inherently wrong with the Game of Thrones/Lord of the Rings style of epic fantasy but I have craved something different forever).
According to The Verge a sequel was already ordered up before the December 22nd premier and I for one am excited to see where the story goes from here.
Frankly put I’m not certain what movie the critics were watching, as I said, the film is far from perfect but it isn’t the bloated, absolute mess that CNN and Roger Ebert labeled it or the “Worst Movie of 2017” as Indie Wire called it. There are some bigger picture issues I would have loved to see the movie dive into more but the story told here was essentially a smaller more personal story about the two central figures getting drawn into the bigger conflict. The world building in this film lends itself to telling those bigger stories down the line, let us not forget that there is the looming threat of a resurrected dark lord to go along with the tales of the downtrodden orcs and high society elves.
Final Verdict: 7 out of 10. Bright is a flawed yet fun film that is certainly worth checking out if you can go into with an open mind untainted by the opinions of stuffy critics who forget movies are meant to be entertaining.