Bright is a 2017 action fantasy set in a world where mystical creatures live side by side with humans and a human cop is forced to work with an Orc to find a weapon everyone is prepared to kill for.
Some things just look great on paper. Certainly Bright must have, a modern world populated by humans who live alongside fairies, orcs, and elves. It even stars Will Smith, a name that practically redefined blockbuster success. However, David Ayer‘s latest sci-fi crime drama misses opportunities to take its premise and offer any kind of authentic commentary on society, law enforcement, or most importantly, what it means to be human in a diverse world. Sure, it might not need to, but that it tries hard and fails to take shots only makes it flat.
After L.A.P.D. officer Daryl Ward (Smith) is wounded from a near point blank shotgun blast, he comes back to work, rejoining his orc partner Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), having reservations about their working together. Naturally, no one else on the force likes the orc, some harboring long-festering hatred for him and his race. What’s more, the orcs see Jakoby as a traitor, as they are regularly beaten by police. One night, this all gets tested when Ward and Jakoby chance upon a magical wand, belonging to a powerful group of elves, led by the evil Leilah (Noomi Rapace), leading to confrontations with corrupt cops, aggressive feds, deep-seeded racism, and more trouble than they can handle.
There’s no denying the potential, with Smith and Edgerton doing expectedly good work under Ayer’s typical solid direction. Written by Max Landis, the story is intended to be sharp, taking swipes at contemporary issues, though most are forced. For instance, a pesky fairy – sharp-toothed pests who are treated like flying varmints – comes upon Ward’s house and leaves the officer coming after it with a broom saying “fairy lives don’t matter.” Orcs are blatantly positioned as black, being harassed and verbally ridiculed. There are other pokes and prods but it’s all weakened by obvious banter and dialogue that tries way too hard. “Shouldn’t we wait for the calvary?” says, Jakoby. “We are the calvary,” answers Ward. This has moss growing on it.
There are a few elves (and the even more rarer humans) who are actually ‘Brights’, creatures with incredible power, able to use magic and such. In this world, elves rule the globe, ultra rich and living in wealthy neighborhoods, spending much of their time shopping. The wand becomes the Macguffin, and the movie becomes a fairly standard buddy cop movie with partners who are at first totally incompatible before finding common ground if they want to survive.
Absolutely there are good ideas here, however very few are made to work, the film preferring to be snarky than sharp, relying on tropes of the genre to carry it through and hoping the fantasy elements will be enough to be fresh. Admittedly, Ayer knows how to stage a good looking action scene, but much like his Suicide Squad, the flash means nothing when the story and script don’t make it matter. While Bright obviously harkens back to Graham Baker‘s Alien Nation, it takes on some of the more modern trends of exaggerated violence and hyperrealism, though ends up mired in its own trappings. There is little weight to it, nothing that feels either like satire or reflective of society, instead being more like neon signs that point to everything we’ve seen before. It ends up a big, loud, Will Smith action/comedy, and in some moments, feels good because of it, his timing and delivery, as usual, kinda fun in reminding of the good ol’ days of the late 90s. It’s just not enough to make this worth recommending, a disappointing misfire that really should have been a wonder.
Movie description: Bright is a 2017 action fantasy set in a world where mystical creatures live side by side with humans and a human cop is forced to work with an Orc to find a weapon everyone is prepared to kill for.
Director(s): David Ayer
Actor(s): Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace
Genre: Action, Crime, Fantasy