With the director of "Suicide Squad" and the writer of "Victor Frankenstein," Netflix wants to create a new magical franchise to compete with the likes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and "Fantastic Beasts."
"Bright" is a $90 million fantasy movie with a planned sequel already in the works. It stars A-lister Will Smith in a world where magic is real and humans live side-by-side with orcs, elves, and faeries.
Also, everyone is extremely racist. Smith plays a human cop in the Los Angeles Police Department whose paired up with an orc cop played by Joel Edgerton. Orcs are depicted like black stereotypes, where they're all in gangs but there are a few "good ones." Elves are depicted as 1%-ers who control the world.
The two cops stumble into a prophesied plot where a mythologized magical wand is sought after by various underground cults and can change the world.
Is "Bright" any good? Let's take a look.
Why you should care: If Netflix is the future of movies, then "Bright" could be the future of the blockbuster.
From an industry level, it's important to think about what "Bright" means for the future of big-budget blockbusters.
Netflix has produced films before, but this is its first one with a massive budget. With "Bright," Netflix wants to get audiences used to the idea of fantasy films being produced for the small screen. The company is planning to spend $8 billion on content next year, so you can expect to see more projects like this.
Netflix hired Will Smith, one of the biggest stars in the world, to pull it off. He's in the movie alongside Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, and a few other recognizable names.
To make the Netflix movie, they hired David Ayer, the director best known for "Suicide Squad" — which received terrible reviews, particularly for how Ayer directed his actors — but who also made the well-reviewed war film "Fury" and cop drama "End of Watch." Max Landis — most famous for his toxic misogyny and a string of failed sci-fi films after 2012's "Chronicle" — wrote the script.
What's hot: There's a solid "Shrek" reference.
Most of "Bright" is really bad. But there's one part where Will Smith yells at an orc and tells him to take his "fat Shrek-looking ass back to your vehicle and drive the f--- home to Fiona."
Otherwise, Joel Edgerton provides a surprisingly good performance as an Orc cop. When you're caked in makeup and have terrible dialogue to work with, it's no easy feat to play a convincing character, but Edgerton does it. There's also no denying Smith's magnetic screen presence, which still shines through such a drab movie.
What's not: Gosh this movie is dumb.
Before it even begins, you know you're about to watch a movie that's both offensive and silly.
Its first title card announces that it's produced by "Trigger Warning Entertainment." The next card has the text, citing "The Great Prophecy 7:15," that "Only a bright can control the power of the wand." Within the first few minutes, Smith's character tells a bunch of Orcs that "faerie lives don't matter."
It only gets worse from there.
The mythology is just incredibly lame. The script for "Bright" resembles the novel you tried to write when you were 13 years old and just read a bunch of bad fantasy novels to feed your "Harry Potter" addiction, but David Ayer tweaked the story because he only agrees to direct movies if it's about corruption in law enforcement.
There are all sorts of images that seem like they sprang from the mind of a horny teenager who plays too many video games. The cops come across a naked elf lady attached to a wall with magical tubes. A bunch of elves keep nattering away about fulfilling a prophecy. Orcs cut their hands for a blood pact. Will Smith shoots a gas canister that causes a big explosion.
Much of it makes no sense. Everyone knows about how powerful magical wands are, but only a random pattern of people seem to know that only a "Bright" can wield them. Orcs are really strong and can lift cars, but there's a whole plot point based on characters disputing that it's possible for an orc to jump really high.
One of the most interesting characters on paper — an elf who's part of a cult that "destroyed the Illuminati 100 years ago" and is trying to summon the dark lord or whatever, is presumed to not be able to speak English until close to the end of the movie — where she suddenly does speak English and fills in her backstory with a flashback scene.
In the end, the film turns out to be astonishingly close to "Suicide Squad," where a bunch of people have to stop someone using a powerful, brightly glowing magical force from summoning a dark force that would destroy the planet or something. The consequences aren't totally clear.
Many of the film's plot details are puzzling. The dynamic between Smith's and Edgerton's characters is initially tense because Edgerton apparently didn't run fast enough to catch a criminal earlier. "The whole world is watching" their relationship, a superior warns them? What? Why? Who cares?
There's also a scene where an orc gang beats up the two characters and interrogates them to find the magical wand. Afterwards, an orc checks their bag to look for it. They didn't think to check the bag first?
"Bright" moves at a blessedly quick pace. Normally, it's a good thing if a dreary, uncomfortably violent movie like this at least goes by quickly. But some unwise lines and moments are shoved into the rush. At one point in the movie, Smith's character instructs another to "swipe left" to remotely detonate a bomb to kill a woman.
The bottom line: "Bright" wallows in Hollywood's worst instincts.
It's no secret that Netflix is trying to eventually become the biggest movie studio in Hollywood. But if they want to make blockbusters, they need to do better. "Bright" may have been meant to be a vehicle for David Ayer's vision, but it resembles the worst dreck of the studio system.
Ayer's obsessions are getting tiresome. His movies have some consistent themes. He looks at the moral compromises of regular people in power, like police officers and soldiers, and how systemic abuse and corruption harms the disadvantaged communities below them. They're noble ideas and great to see in mainstream movies. But in his last couple of projects, whatever point he wants to make gets lost in poorly lit gunfire and people shouting about a cop named "Rodriguez."
Will Smith also needs to branch out a bit more. How many movies is he going to make where he plays an everyman with a gun who makes moral compromises so his daughter can have a better life?
"Bright" ends with a rap over the rolling credits. But, disappointingly, it's not by Smith. If you're not going to have Will Smith summarize the entire plot of the movie in a rap song at the end, what's even the point?
"Bright" is on Netflix now.
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