Bright - Review
Will Smith and Sci-Fi are usually a winning combination. Men in Black and Independence Day were huge blockbusters. Will Smith is one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood history. Him being the star of Netflix's biggest budget should be an easy no-brainer win for the streaming service giant!
Continue reading to see how Bright played out. There are some spoilers throughout!
Max Landis, son of legendary director John Landis, has a very creative mind. He can create worlds that are intriguing and rich with potential. There were hints of that in Bright. But the film ended up being a mess. It suffered one of the biggest identity crises I've seen. It tried being a fantasy alt-world, rich in mythology of fairies, orcs, and elves. It tried being a misfit buddy cop flick, where they have to put aside their differences and work together. It tried being a dark crime noir, similar to director David Ayer's other film End of Watch. It failed on all fronts because it was confused on what it wanted to be.
If it went all in on just one of those things, Bright could have been a stronger and better film. I was actually intrigued by the world that was presented, but had to slog through so much other stuff that it didn't seem like it was worth it.
The film was utterly predictable, and didn't set the stakes up well enough. Once you realize what the title means, then you can deduce what the "twist" is going to be. It came as no surprise when it happened in the movie, especially since Netflix green-lit a sequel just a day before its release.
Will Smith oozes charisma even when he is not trying. But it wasn't enough to distract from his clunky dialogue. It wasn't just him though, there were gems throughout like: "If you act like my enemy, you become my enemy". Smith's character was confusing at time, where the first part of the movie portrayed him to be this caring family man, the second act he had to tell you repeatedly that he wasn't a good person, and then the third act showed that he was willing to die for his orc partner, and not stay alive for his daughter who made him promise to do just that. It was really confusing.
The most confusing thing of the whole film wasn't the history of this Earth, or why fairies are menaces, or why magic and elves are feared, it is why the movie Shrek still exists. It felt like Will Smith's Shrek line was ad-libbed by him. It is funny in and of itself, but in context why would a kid's movie about ogres still exist when biases against other creatures are so prevalent? It doesn't fit in with the world that was trying to be built.
There are other baffling things also. When Ward (Will Smith) confronts Jakoby (Joel Edgerton) and then makes his decision to be on his side instead of the other cops, in essence making his decision to kill the other cops, he asks what order they are lined up in....then proceeds to try to kill them all anyway. If he was going to kill them all anyway why ask the order? I can understand it if he wanted to spare one, and while one did survive, that wasn't Ward's intention. It would have made sense if he wanted to spare a specific one, but the whole scene was baffling. If the intent was to know the order so he knew who to shoot first, the film didn't make that clear, nor did it show us why he would have needed to kill them in a certain order. While there were some flashy fight scenes it is things like this that made Bright a huge sloppy mess.
Bright is hardly coherent, and while it was nicely shot and taken seriously, its the little details that are neglected that really just continually hurt the film. Ward was a cop first, since Jakoby was the first ever Orc cop - a concept that is enough to carry a film. No need for elves, and magic, and stuff like that. Ward continually asks that Jakoby be transferred to a different car. Ward said "my car" quite a lot. If that is the case, why does Jakoby constantly drive? Its fine if Ward had a character quirk of not wanting to drive his own police car. But PUT THAT IN THE MOVIE SOMEWHERE! It was weird to see, like Ward was the guest or the new guy or what have you. Later on, Jakoby shoots the villain (played by Noomi Rapace in a wasted role) and Ward says to shoot her again, and he tries, the gun clicks, and he says "I can't, I'm out"...the movie did it right at first by showing us that Jakoby was out of ammo, after all, it is a visual medium. Then it completely undermined that moment by telling us again too, while insulting the audience's intelligence at the same time.
As creative as the world is that we got glimpses of, some of the things weren't. Humans speak English. And Spanish. And French. And Italian. And German, and a plethora of other languages. Orcs? They speak....wait for it...Orkish. Elves? You guessed it! Elvish. Not only are those extremely generic names for a language (have you ever seen a movie where humans speak "Humanish"?) but it implies it is the only ones they speak. Like Elves from different areas can't have developed different languages. It shows that maybe the concept wasn't as thought out as it should have been.
I'm not sure what the sequel will focus on, but I hope it has a focus. Bright had enough to make three different movies, and didn't do any of it justice. Will Smith has had a few stumbles lately, with After Earth, Suicide Squad and now Bright. Hopefully he gets restored to glory some time soon. If he has a good relationship with Netflix, how about doing a limited run of a legacy-quel to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? Maybe getting back to his roots is exactly the spark needed to reignite the fire that was so often associated with his career.
There are much better movies on Netflix you should check out, like The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) and Mudbound - which is one of the best films of the year. But after those, watch Bright to form your own opinion. Who knows, maybe it will speak to you!
Bright is now streaming, exclusively on Netflix.