Bright, the first big budget, straight-to-Netflix movie starring Will Smith is not as bad as you have been led to believe. In fact, if you enjoy medium-high concept fantasy fiction and buddy cop shoot-em-up movies in equal measure, it’s probably just the movie for you.
Going in to watching Bright, all I knew was that I thought the trailer was cool, but that my wife had heard it was really, really bad. The “really, really” part didn’t worry me all that much because a) I like a lot of “bad” movies, and b) I already paid for Netflix this month, so what do I have to lose besides time? I was not aware of the savaging this film was receiving from critics and the equal/opposite reaction of fans blowing back in the Twitterverse to support it.
Remember when some people liked a thing and some people didn’t and that was just fine because not everything is for everyone? Me too. The internets need to chill on both sides of the argument when it comes to a movie like this, but that’s another column.
Back to Bright.
Set in a modern world where elves, orcs, pesky fairies and magic are all real and have been part of society since the beginning, we get dropped into the world and hit the ground running. Elves are rich and snooty, orcs are hated for once teaming up with “The Dark Lord” in a great battle and humans are… humans. As far as concepts go, I was all in. Gang-banger orcs that Will Smith keeps calling “the homies” sporting gold chains and saggy pants? Secret elven death cults? Fairies getting into the bird feeder? Come on, this is good stuff.
Will Smith is an L.A. cop, his partner is the first Orc on the force. Think Worf in Star Trek: TNG without the tolerance. They patrol the mean streets with a very heavy-handed “Orcs as African American” allegory waiting behind most of the early scenes.
The movie quickly ditches what could be a compelling political or social commentary narrative for explosions, chases, blood-soaked murder and lots of swearing. I’m not arguing with the choice to go this route; it’s the movie that director David Ayer (Suicide Squad) got paid to make, but there is another movie or an ongoing series in here that I would like to see.
There is a magic McGuffin… sorry… wand, a magic wand and some evil evils with ninja skills that want it. Also tossed in: we have a nice elf, a Latino gang, an Orc gang, crooked cops and a strip club shoot-out. The contrast to the paint by numbers cop action stuff and the rituals of Orc culture in modern times is cool. Again, I would watch a series just about this world to learn more. The concept carries the movie further toward the finish line than maybe it deserves to get.
I will go ahead and gripe that the chase, rest, shoot out, chase, repeat pattern gets a little stale through a good chunk of the movie. There are only so many locations I want to see a guy stomp into shooting twin machine guns in the air while people scatter. I will also admit that the plot is pretty simple and the characters are fairly one-dimensional. I don’t know if these are by-products of cuts, editorial choices or just a hollow script, but as I have said before, there was more movie here to make.
All in, I liked Bright. I would have paid to see it in a theatre and not been mad on the way out. Was it a game changer? No, of course not, but it doesn’t try to be. It takes a big concept, merges it with a genre and gives you something to watch with explosions and Will Smith.
Critics and Twitter have alot to say about this movie and I guess I have, too. At the end of the day I think its a case of something not being for everyone that happens to be on Netflix, where we all watch all the things now. People are going to have opinions because we don’t even have to leave our house to see it, it’s just there. And since it’s “just there” I think its worth a watch, even if it’s just to decide that you don’t like it.
Til we get a sequel to Bright with a sweet Legolas easter egg, I’ll be here on my couch watching things and having opinions.