Movie Review: Netflix's Bright

Updated on December 23, 2017

Spoiler Free

I'm not gonna spoil anything outside of anything you can see in trailers. I'll discuss the premise, character portrayals, settings, and whatnot in an effort to explain my opinion on whether or not you should take the time to watch this on Netflix.

A poster for Netflix's Bright
A poster for Netflix's Bright | Source

Initial Impressions

By golly I may have a problem. I had a ton of expectations for the last two films I saw in theaters (Thor: Ragnarock and The Last Jedi) only to be disappointed. Before this film, I didn't hear much but negative reviews and yet somehow, I have comparatively little to complain about.

It's an urban fantasy flick, one of very few to approach any kind of mainstream market. It's got Will Smith, which is almost guaranteed to be entertaining and frankly I was kind of impressed by the visuals.

To clarify, this isn't made to be a film that competes with Thor or Star Wars of this year. Is it a film you should get a subscription to Netflix for? Not hardly but if you like the idea of Bad Boyz with orcs and magic wands, I found it to be pretty quality stuff.

Edgar Ramirez as the elf Kandomere
Edgar Ramirez as the elf Kandomere | Source

The Plot and Performance

So, the film is be explained through a handful of different examples all mashed together. Take Bad Boys (or most buddy cop films based in violent gang-based territories) where the two heroes have more reasons to clash than they do to mix well. Add in your bits of successful fantasy such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings where there's a villain known as the Dark Lord and voila!

In a world parallel to our own with matching technologies and locations, one cop has to take on the first official orc police officer. It's a massive deal as the world the audience is given is drenched in racial segregation and the hatred and bias that strengthens the divides. Within this setting, a Magic Wand is found, a talisman compared to a nuclear weapon that grants wishes. Everyone and their neighbor are seeking it out, most notably some kind of evil cult looking to resurrect an ominously named Dark Lord.

As Will Smith is about as prismatic as about nearly any other actor, he carries a great deal on his shoulders. Joel Edgarton plays the orc cop Nick Jakoby (which is the most human-sounding name I've ever heard an orc have) and does a fantastic job displaying emotion under the amount of makeup he wears. As a buddy cop film, most everything leans on these two but they feature some good charisma and banter with one another. There's a variety of other gang leaders and members featured prominently in the film and they're lively individuals, both humans and orcs.

Even for the characters who don't have enough speaking lines for you to bother remembering their names, everyone looks fantastic. Orcs and elves are visibly different from humans from physical features to attire. There's a fine dosage of the fantastical and magical effects but I wish it was more.

Noomi Rapace as the elf Leilah
Noomi Rapace as the elf Leilah | Source

What is 'Urban Fantasy?'

Urban Fantasy here is a branch of Contemporary Fantasy which is adding fantastical elements such as elves, magic, and/or dragons to a more modern world with skyscrapers, cars, and guns. Urban Fantasy is this but focused in an urban environment.

As a fantasy world, the history of Bright does deal with magic with its Wands and Dark Lord and with numerous races (one character references an alliance of 9 races to combat this threat approximately 2,000 years ago. Aside from the Magic Wand however, this film much more closely focuses on race. While only primarily focusing on 3 different races in Los Angeles, it explores human perspectives on orcs (more specifically from human law enforcement perspectives), as well as orcs that are uninitiated and seen as traitors among the others. It's fascinating and a bit depressing but Bright's world building is, in my opinion, it's strongest feature. This film only looks at Los Angeles and only 3 races but you get a peak of some centaur creature, fairies, and some winged reptile flying over the sky. There's a lot more to explore and it makes this film seem large while at the same time very directed. I can't say this is the best film I've seen in 2017 but I would be excited to hear of a sequel.

Lucy Fry as Tikka
Lucy Fry as Tikka | Source

It Can Be A Little Too Bloated

While I do praise the world building, there are some hints of the outside elements that are a weird mixture of not enough detail and too much. Pieces of the plot seem to have some kind of importance and we spend time learning about them, only for them to not really be mentioned again. There's a cult devoted to stopping the Dark Lord talked about during the beginning but they end up not affecting the story at all. We learn very little of the Dark Lord, only that...well, honestly just his name and orcs supported him which helps to feed racism against them in modern day.

In a nutshell, while this film opens the door wide to a new world, it tries to take the audience through too many sights at once. If you think back on it after watching, you'll wonder why certain things were important and why others weren't more focused on specifically.

Rated R

In case you haven't figured it out by the subject matter, this is definitely rated R. There's considerable violence in the killing but the after-gore isn't exactly framed (unless you count the victims of the magic wand). There's a 'titty bar' as well, although I believe you only see 1 woman topless. And there's plenty of 'F' bombs as well for language. So, definitely not a family friendly film.

Closing Thoughts

I enjoyed this film more than I thought I would. I'm not entirely sure why critics have been blasting this film but I definitely appreciate a piece of urban fantasy actually becoming something at least tangent to mainstream consumption. It's different but is familiar enough that most viewers shouldn't feel out of their element. Due to its subject matter and content, I can't really refer to it to just about anyone, nor would I even if it was more tame. It's a nice little gem that'll entertain if the subject matter sounds at all interesting to you. Plus, it's not going to cost you a thing if you already have a Netflix account.

Tl;dr

  • A fun piece of entertainment despite nay-saying critics
  • Brings a bit of urban fantasy to a near mainstream media market
  • Fantastic world-building that you really only get a glimpse of
  • Full of colorful characters that you won't remember their names
  • Soundly Rated R
  • Story is a bit predictable towards the end
  • New movie with Will Smith free for Netflix users? Why not?

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