Bright is Netflix’s most ambitious (and most expensive) project to date, and if you’re willing to look past some clunky editing and cringe-worthy dialogue, it’s not half bad.
I’ll start by saying that Bright is better than the critics would have you believe. The movie has been completely torn apart by a number of renowned reviewers which, combined with the fact that it was directed by David Ayer of the awful Suicide Squad, made me hesitant to even watch it. And while I wasn’t completely blown away by Bright, I can definitely say that I was entertained.
Will Smith plays Daryl Ward, a seasoned L.A. cop stuck partnered with an Orc, Nick Jakobi, as his partner. The two come to possess a powerful magic wand and are forced to flee for their lives as humans, orcs, and elves converge to take the weapon for themselves. I’ll admit it does sound silly and honestly, it kind of is, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a mixing of genres like you’ve never seen it before– some of it works, some of it doesn’t.
What does work, for the most part, is the action. There are a number of really well-done shootouts and action scenes that are filmed in some creative ways, including some with slow-mo being used to great effect. Similarly, the use of CGI throughout the film, particularly during the action scenes, is spot-on.
There’s more blood, swearing, and nudity in Bright than I was expecting but all of that helps to make this silly-sounding idea feel a little bit more adult, adding a degree of believability to the fantasy-world of the film. One of the main complaints that kept popping up about about the film was the lack of explanation for almost everything in the movie. The viewer is thrown into a world filled with mythical creatures and magic and given very little backstory. In this case, though, I think it mostly works. Bright very easily could have been filled to the brim with exposition, history, and explanation on the inner workings of this fantasy world, but that would have added a lot of boring runtime. Besides, I think that, in this case, thrusting the audience into the thick of things right from the beginning is a more effective method of storytelling that fits better with the more realistic depiction of fantasy that Bright is going for.
Although criticized as being too “in your face” and contrived, the racism present in the film between humans and orcs (and elves) feels a little one-dimensional, but mostly grounded. It’s not hard to believe that people or beings who look different would be treated differently as well. It only feels stretched a little bit within the L.A. police department where literally every single cop treats Jakobi poorly. As someone who is shown to be a pretty nice guy from the start, it’s a little hard to believe that Jakobi had not earned the respect of anyone on the force.
My main complaints with the film are the dialogue and the editing. For me, pretty much every bit of attempted witty banter between Ward and Jakobi fell flat. In fact, most of the humour in the film fell flat, period. It doesn’t help that most of the cringy comic relief moments were drawn out for excruciatingly long periods of time. There are number of “funny” lines put in for Will Smith’s character, many times during shootouts and situations of great peril that aren’t really that funny and that only serve to take you out of the action. I think if the film had tried to be a bit more serious, rather than trying to force a buddy-cop relationship between the leads and a number of one-liners from Will Smith, it would have been much better.
The editing, as well, was really not that great in a number of sequences in the film. There were some very strange and jarring cuts that either confuse the audience in terms of geography and where characters are in relation to one another or that take the audience out of the moment completely. The best action scenes were the ones where the camera stayed relatively still and we really got to see what was going on.
So, for me, Bright was a fun, entertaining, and creative watch that, as long as you’re willing to look past some missteps in terms of characterization, dialogue, and editing, is worth checking out. There’s enough good in the movie to make it engaging and exciting until the end, and the bad things aren’t too hard to ignore. Bright definitely isn’t for everyone, but, as Netflix’s first major big-budget film, I think they did alright.