Film Review: Bright
In 2017, David Ayer released Bright which starred Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, Lucy Fry, Édgar Ramírez, Ike Barinholtz, Happy Anderson, Dawn Olivieri, Matt Gerald, Margaret Cho and Brad William Henke. The film is shown exclusively on Netflix and had no box office gross.
In a world where fantasy creatures live side by side with humans, a human cop is forced to work alongside an orc to find a weapon everyone is prepared to kill for.
Though not the worst film of 2017, as many reviewers have deemed it to be, Bright is a missed opportunity despite the director and writer behind it. Ayer is the master of modern cop drama, with one of his more notable films seeing its actor earn the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and inspiring many of the modern cop dramas seen today. Further the film was written by Max Landis, a champion of the original idea whose films are genre mashups, aiming to upend the traditions of their respective genres and give them new life. As such, a fantasy cop drama written by Landis and directed by Ayer seemed like a safe bet, one Netflix hoped for considering the company bought the rights to the script for a record $3.5 million and had 11 million views within its opening weekend. The film looked to be the hit Netflix had been dying for, yet it wasted its potential.
Still, the plot is interesting and unique, following Officer Daryl Ward who, after being shot by a criminal Orc, returns to his duty alongside Officer Nick Jakoby, an Orc. In fact, he’s the first Orc allowed on the force in spite of, apparently, allowing the other Orc to escape. As the two are on patrol one night, Ward and Jakoby infiltrate a Shield of Light safehouse only to discover a young elf named Tikka surrounded by corpses and in possession of a magic wand, something outlawed for years. When the appearance of the wand gets out, it’s up to Ward and Jakoby to protect Tikka while preventing the evil elf Leilah from apprehending the wand and forcing a prophecy to come true.
The idea behind Bright is something audiences have never really seen before. However, it’s the execution of these ideas that fall flat. The Los Angeles inhabited by the characters really isn’t much different from the Los Angles in reality. Still, it does imagine how fantasy class systems would work within the world. For instance, elves live in the lush, luxurious downtown and humans and orcs live in lower income housing. Nonetheless, none of it feels clever. This could be due to a lack of understanding of how the world worked before the events of the film. The film gives brief references to wars fought 1,000 years ago and the outlawing of magic through the land, leaving viewers wondering what the world was like before. If everything looks just like an alternate version of today’s Los Angeles, the world before it really isn’t particularly interesting. It feels the filmmakers clearly took inspiration from Tolkien. If the film came from his world, the architecture, the costuming and the advancements to the world itself over the course of a millennia would be much more imaginative. Nevertheless, it’s not interested in this, instead looking to be a thinly veiled social commentary, cliché at this point and done better in other films by Ayer. It does have neat ideas, such as the fantasy class systems, but they are used so obviously they have no point.
As for the performances, Will Smith and Joel Edgerton are good as Ward and Jakoby, although aren’t especially memorable. The makeup is the strongest aspect of the film. Opting to have all the fantasy characters in prosthetics and makeup as opposed to CG was an especially strong decision. The cinematography is decent and, to Ayer’s credit, he shoots the film as if it were another one of his gritty cop dramas. A great looking result notwithstanding, it would have been stronger if the world was more interesting. Finally, the soundtrack is a decent mix of hip-hop tracks. Regardless, it’s missing one of Smith’s trademark movie songs and the film probably would have benefitted from including one.
Awards & Recognitions
bold indicates reception of award/recognition
California on Location Awards
- Location Team of the Year - Features
Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild Artisan AWards
- Best Period and/or Character Makeup - Feature-Length Motion Picture