There are two categories that viewers will fall into when watching Bright; the just go with it crowd and the frustrated for the duration of the movie group. Very early on the film asks you to choose one of those two paths and that will ultimately determine whether or not you will enjoy Bright. This could understandably be a divisive movie for both critics and fans, but consider this reviewer part of the former and being thoroughly entertained. Yes, it does have some flaws, but they did not overpower the overall experience. As an action and drama, the film does its job extremely well and as elements of fantasy are mixed in, it began to evolve into a truly unique experience.
Synopsis: Set in a world where mystical creatures live side by side with humans. A human cop is forced to work with an Orc to find a weapon everyone is prepared to kill for. (IMDB)
Starring: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, and Noomi Rapace
Writer: Max Landis
Director: David Ayer
Running Time: 117mins
What’s most impressive about the film is the universe, instead of coming across in a hokey or unrealistic way, appears as a grounded present-day fantasy-driven story which could very well exist today. Both director David Ayer and writer Max Landis do an incredible job of bringing this universe to life as class struggles, racial divides, and bigotry are heavily featured themes throughout the entire film. Magic is always at play in the background, however, this world never feels that far out of reach. Sure, there are orcs and elves, but each race and their issues are easily identifiable and thus relatable in today’s society even in a small way. Ayer plays off well with Landis’ script in showcasing just how these groups interact with one another as well as how their economic status affects how they are treated or seen by rival factions.
Bright centers around a pair of LAPD officers, Darryl Ward (Smith) and Nick Jakoby (Edgerton). Ward is returning to the job after medical hiatus due to him being shot while on the job. Jakoby is the world’s first orc police officer and is an outcast both in his orc community as well as with the humans. Together they become entangled in a twisted mystery surrounding a magic wand owned by an elf that is bent on resurrecting The Dark Lord, a mythical creature that was destroyed millennia ago but whose demise brought about the class systems due to various races choosing sides. Ward and Jakoby’s possession of this wand puts a large target on their backs to the point where they are not sure who to trust and therefore spend most of the film on the run. Leilah (Rapace), the wand’s original owner and leader of a rogue group of elves who support The Dark Lord, spends the film hunting down the duo as well as her sister, Tikka (Lucy Fry), who stole the wand and defected from their order.
If you’ve read the previous paragraph and are still here then you’ll enjoy Bright. The film did not hold the viewer’s hand on the folklore that founded its universe. There was some explanation but much of it was left unexplained, expecting the viewer to just come along for the ride. This could frustrate some viewers, however, it may interest some looking towards the sequel. All credit goes to Max Landis for creating this interesting fantasy world while also teasing just enough about how it all came to be and what might lie ahead for the futures of Ward and Jakoby.
The acting and casting overall was well chosen and executed. Smith did a good job as Ward even though it could be argued that despite all of the fantasy elements he was merely playing an anti-hero in a police officer’s uniform and wasn’t stretched to his acting limits. Nevertheless, he did well in that role and helped anchor the film in many ways. But the unsung hero of the film has to be Edgerton as Officer Jakoby. His makeup hindered his ability to emote any form of facial expressions, however, he gave a very subtle yet poignant performance that was noticeable anytime he was being persecuted or confronted and he was persecuted a LOT!
The action sequences were absolutely incredible and were true cinema quality in their execution. From car chases to large scale shootouts, Bright featured many action scenes that would have greatly crippled the movie had Netflix not approached it from a big budget mentality. The same principle goes towards the makeup and special FX which were some of the best this year. The amount of detail on each orc’s face and body were incredible to take in especially when seeing larger crowds of them and trying to imagine the amount of work that it took to create. It was breathtaking and oddly beautiful at the same time and was something to behold any time it was on screen. The special FX were equally as impressive as they featured major explosions, realistic looking battles with magic and much more.
The cinematography created by longtime Ayer collaborator, Roman Vasyanov, helped establish a look that is all too prevalent in David Ayer’s work and has come to be a staple in his films. In the case of Bright, its beauty fluctuates from the dinginess of a gang’s underground lair to the piercing colors of Los Angeles nightlife mixed with the vividness of shots taking place in the rain. It’s so much for the eye to understand but is yet another smaller ingredient in a larger recipe that helps brings this universe to life.
It is completely understandable that some who watch Bright could become frustrated with the finished product, but some will not only satisfied with the story, its character development, and the fantasy elements of this new world but be also excited for what is to come. Now that we know there is, in fact, more, Bright can be accurately judged as the first installment of a series. While it is not necessarily unworthy of a recommendation, it is worth withholding complete judgment until the entire story has been told. Until then, as a stand-alone movie, Bright was entertaining, funny, exciting, and an all-around solid watch. It serves as a welcomed addition to an ever-growing Netflix catalog that is occupied by more misses than hits.