Netflix has produced some great original content in the past, including “Stranger Things,” “Narcos” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt.” Unfortunately, their movie “Bright” was not one of them. The film received negative reviews, with a 27 percent currently on RottenTomatoes and a 6.5/10 on IMDB.
Now I wanted to see “Bright” when I first saw the trailers. A buddy-cop action movie set in a fantasy world also with a message about equality, starring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton playing his orc partner – that sounds awesome. Alas, that wasn’t the final product.
Similar to HBO’s series “True Blood,” “Bright” takes place in the modern world where magical/fantasy creatures live side-by-side with humans. When a movie creates its own fictional world, it has to establish certain rules for that world along with histories, characters and so on. For example, in the Harry Potter series, it clearly explains how the wizarding world works. “Bright” attempted to do the same with its story.
Using this fantasy setting, the film tried to deliver social commentary. In “Bright,” the fantasy species are supposed to represent stereotypes for certain social classes. For example, elves are portrayed to be rich and successful. Orcs are portrayed to be poor, living in violent neighborhoods, suffer prejudice from by about everyone and are constantly being harassed by the police.
From my interruption, the portrayal of elves is supposed to represent Caucasians and other majority groups of those that are well-off. While the portrayal of orcs is supposed to represent African-Americans and other minority groups. The humans don’t really represent any specific group, but rather give characters the audience can relate to in comparison to the exaggerated ones.
In fairness, this is a clever idea – of course it isn’t very subtle. It’s hard to draw a deeper meaning when the allegory feels obvious – it’s why some people don’t like “Avatar.” I personally don’t know what to say about the message other than “Bright” used fantasy characters to represent social classes. I’m not exactly sure why though. Was it to acknowledge prejudice in America? If so, it did accomplish that. Was it trying to show that some people will act like stereotypes, but some will rise above expectations? It also did that. But those are really the only meanings I can come up with.
Despite presenting an interesting world, “Bright” can be confusing sometimes because the world itself is not properly explained. For instance, a character makes a reference to The Alamo. Does that mean this world has the same history as our own? Were their orcs and elves at that battle as well? These are questions that make “Bright” perplexing but not in a good way.
To be honest, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are fairies in this movie and it isn’t explained whether they are sentient beings or mindless pests. To make matters worse, Will Smith has a scene where he beats one to death with a broom. Was that moment supposed to be comedic or horrifying? Smith also has a scene where he compares an orc to Shrek. How can a movie like that exist? Wouldn’t that be extremely offensive towards orcs? These problems might sound like I’m nitpicking, but they are annoying to the point of distracting from the rest of the film.
There are other aspects of this movie that aren’t the best. The action can be over the top, the dialogue is filled with exposition and there are many plot holes throughout the story. In addition, the filmmakers must have thought in order to make this movie into a “tough” cop show they had to make everyone in it act like an a-hole and say the F bomb in every sentence – both are overdone.
I hate to rant, but there’s a scene I felt rips off “Training Day” – if you’ve seen both films, you know which scenes I’m referencing. And the reason this bothers me is because “Training Day” was written by David Ayer, who directed this movie. If you haven’t, it’s cliché and should decide for yourself.
But I will admit despite all that I’ve gone over so far, “Bright” is actually a decent movie. It’s not terrible, and there are some good aspects to it. At times, it can be compelling and entertaining. With that in mind, this movie still could’ve been much better than it is. I’m not sure if I’d recommend seeing it because I understand why some people didn’t like it.
It really is a shame that “Bright” made mistakes with world building and story because I would’ve loved to have seen more of the world it created. This is why if a “Bright” sequel or TV show spinoff is ever made, I’d be happy to see it.
At this point, I almost feel bad for Will Smith. He’s a very charming actor, but his latest films are just bad, like “After Earth” or “Suicide Squad.” I’m not saying he can’t do drama, I’m just saying he should pick better films. And to add insult to injury, “Suicide Squad” was also directed by David Ayer. Both of these guys should do us a favor and go back to working on good movies.