Bright is an urban fantasy crime drama starring Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, Lucy Fry, Edgar Ramirez, and Ike Barinholtz. Set in an alternate timeline in which humans, orcs, fairies, and elves coexist, the film was written by Max Landis and directed by David Ayer. With a budget of just $90 million, it is the most expensive film Netflix has made as of 2017.
The film follows LAPD Officers Daryl Ward (Will Smith) and Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton) as they’re assigned a case involving a magic wand that can only be used by individuals known as Brights (hence the title). After locating the wand and an elf girl named Tikka (Lucy Fry), the trio runs through the streets of Los Angeles from a sinister elf named Leilah (Noomi Rapace), who seeks to use the wand to resurrect The Dark Lord (no, it’s not Voldemort).
The film deserves credit for the aesthetics, particularly the look of the orcs. Costume designer, Kelli Jones did an excellent job making the orcs look grotesque, but not horrifying so the audience can feel their emotions. It also helps that the orcs have their own distinct look to them as opposed to the likes of the ones in J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic Lord of the Rings. The opening credits also have a uniqueness to them as they use graffiti art to show case the origins of this world.
Sadly, the positives end at the aesthetics as when it comes to the story and characters, that’s when this film falls apart. Story wise, it’s your standard buddy cop/MacGuffin plot which is mildly predictable from the minute the concept of the want is introduced. It wouldn’t be so bad if the film didn’t focus so much on it’s message about prejudice and the stakes for the movie were much higher than just keep it away from the bad guys. I mentioned how the villian, Leilah, wants to use the wand to resurrect The Dark Lord; however, the eponymous character doesn’t strike fear into our characters and as such has no real impact on the plot other than to give Leilah a motivation. The film also fails as a buddy cop story because of it’s gratuitous and preachy message about racism and prejudice; not to mention that Daryl and Nick are at each other’s throats so much, that it’s impossible to root for them to become friends.
Speaking of characters, there is a severe lack of likable characters in this film. It even managed to do what for the longest time I though was impossible: make acclaimed actor, Will Smith, unlikable. I’m sure he’s a really nice guy in real life, but in this film, his character, Daryl Ward, is a spiteful, bigoted, insensitive and loud mouth scumbag that puts everyone (save for his family) beneath him, especially Nick Jakoby. Speaking of which, he’s not much better as he’s an introverted coward who takes every insult thrown at him and never does anything to stand up for himself. I would’ve liked Tikka had she been given a personality (and for that matter a defined character), but she’s reduced to just being there and not contributing anything of value until the second half of the film. Then there’s Leilah, the villain of the film; if there was one word to best describe her it would be this: boring. Not only is she devoid of any personality, but she also lacks any charisma and doesn’t have a motivation strong enough for the audience to care and root for our heroes to stop her. Say what you will about the Marvel Cinematic Universe villains, they all have at least one scene or line that audiences remember them for (for better or worse).
The biggest problem of the movie though is the world building. On paper, a world in which humans and mythical creatures coexist in a modern setting could work. Execution wise, however, this makes one’s brain hurt with all the questions regarding how this world functions. There’s a video on YouTube by Lindsay Ellis (formally known as The Nostalgia Chick) that perfectly explains why the world building in Bright fails; but in summary, if humans and mythical creatures coexisted, history as we know it would have changed drastically in the world of Bright. Edgar Ramirez’ character, Kandomere, has a line about the Alamo in the beginning of the film, which gets more confusing the more you think about it.
Bright has a good concept and nice production design, but piled together with poor world building, unlikable characters, a generic story and preachy message, it’s nothing more than a disappointing waste of potential. If you’re looking for a buddy cop movie that touches on prejudice without being overly preachy, my best recommendation is Disney’s Zootopia. As for Bright, you’re not missing anything special I’m afraid.