Buddy-cop movie Bright, set in a modern fantasy world where mythical creatures live side by side with humans, tells the story of a hardened cop forced to partner with the first Orc to join the police force. Will Smith and Joel Edgerton play the cop duo who, upon answering a routine call, stumble upon a powerful weapon that multiple forces will stop at nothing to possess.
Helmed by director David Ayer (Training Day, Suicide Squad) and written by Max Landis (Chronicle, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency), this film is the most expensive Netflix original to date, coming in at a budget of $90,000,000. This collection of high profile talent and top notch production value signal the push by Netflix to compete beyond the world of network TV and indie movies and push into the market of Blockbusters.
The premise itself is the biggest draw of the film, but after about a third of the runtime is through, it becomes apparent that the story has offered up (or totally ignored) all of its interesting possibilities and, with little more to give, substitutes the momentum of the story with visual stimulation alone. Sprinkled with a sense of heavy-handed storytelling, the film’s internal logic is too shaky for any meaningful sequence of events to unfold. There are semi-interesting things happening that come to a screeching halt for a couple of minutes of dialogue to spoon-feed us some information instead of showing us, only to go back to ignoring most of the rules it took the time to spell out in the first place.
A good example of how the film manages to fall so flat is that 23 minutes into the film, a man arrested by the protagonists spells out the entirety of the mystery surrounding the two main characters and their roles in the climax. In two lines of dialogue, we are told enough to ensure that the pivotal moments for them come as no surprise to us at all but still get shown as if there is some sort of tension there. He tells them this in Orcish and the Orc, understanding what he said, decides to not only ignore it but to keep it to himself and somehow still manages to remain surprised as everything proceeds as pretty much predicted. “I think we might be in a prophecy,” he says, after (spoiler alert) being risen from the dead and being told multiple times about his involvement in the prophecy.
Watching Bright feels like watching the worst parts of The Hobbit drunkenly flirt with End of Watch, oblivious to the fact that it’s not responding to the clumsy advances. The attempt to be two types of movie made for a film that was two mediocre attempts at the genres as opposed to one solid mashup of a proper movie. Most films are some combination of two or more genres, but this stab at modern fantasy made for a world that looks good on paper but feels as shallow as the characters that inhabit it.
Just like in Suicide Squad, we get a low effort setup that Will Smith’s character has a wife and a kid (both seen about two times in total) so we had better worry about him or else we’re bad people. The number of times dramatic tension solely hinged on the line “think about your family” was embarrassing. With such a slim amount of time devoted to any one facet of the storytelling, the movie fails to find its footing, leaning purely on the merit of the premise to hobble its way to an ending.
While audiences and critics have seen a split on reception, a big part of the problem with Bright is that it has enough on the surface to make for a two hour distraction from life, so why bother with script revisions when you can brag about 11,000,000 viewers in the first three days since there’s no barrier of entry for clicking?
Does it stand up to any sort of mild scrutiny? Hell no. Does it contribute to the market of blockbuster films or just add to the noise? That’s for you decide. It won’t cost you $10 for a ticket or $30 for a popcorn with that, but it wouldn’t be worth the trip to see it on the big screen anyway.
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