Netflix’s Bright (2017) – Film Review

Bright had potential, but its lackluster twist—which I saw coming a mile off—and lack of sympathetic characters didn’t deliver the “wow” I expected.

A cross between Fantastic Beasts, Men in Black, and Training Day? Sign me up.

This movie blended the real world—and its present-day problems—with more fantastical elements really well. The opening montage of mostly graffiti images brings us up to speed on the politics of the world, and the looming dangers of the story: Some magical macguffin (no, not the One Ring) is being sought-after to resurrect some ancient evil (no, not Sauron). Sarcasm aside, this movie’s got a lot going for it, and I was excited for it from the first trailer, way back when. But director David Ayer goes about it all wrong; some interesting elements are there, sure, but Bright could’ve very well been a Shyamalan flick—and not the good kind, like Split, Unbreakable, or The Sixth Sense.

The race relations thing is a bit heavy-handed—I drew the conclusions the film labored over from the trailer. With that already in my head, the filmmakers should’ve concentrated their efforts further…on the lore, perhaps.

While Will Smith is always a favorite—yes, even in the oddity that was After Earth—I didn’t feel invested in his character. He was like a trash-mouthed Steve Hiller from Independence Day, or a less-tolerant Agent J from MiB. Far from the cock-sure cowboy role he had in Wild Wild West—or his cinematic foil character, as portrayed by Denzel Washington in the aforementioned masterpiece, Training Day), Smith plays the older, grizzled street veteran here. Good to see Smith, Sr., get back into his old groove, but it comes at a cost; the character is that borderline-racist stereotype (ironic, considering the context of the story) whom just needs a push in the right direction to have a change of heart.

Just as well, I felt Noomi Rapace (What Happened to Monday?, Prometheus) was under-used. While tantalizing as a villain, she’s not built up beyond “evil for evil’s sake”. Too bad…

Back to our protags, though, the real emotion of the movie comes from Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby (2013), It Comes At Night)’s rookie orc cop, Jakoby. His was the underdog character, here—a social outcast, shunned by his own people for joining the LAPD, and party to the already-toxic, tri-fold species gap plaguing this alternate world. However… Not without his faults, Edgerton’s Jakoby speaks and acts with a lot more heart and concern for others than his partner-in-crime-stopping. Luckily, his character isn’t wasted in some cheap gambit to stir up audience emotion. Holding out hope for a post-Bright Jakoby spin-off film.

Like I said before, there are some positives, too—big ones, even, depending on your movie-going tastes. Ayer’s shooting style (when it comes to action scenes and car chase sequences, here) is great—not too jumpy, but also giving that sense of urgency and danger that the audience needs to feel to root for our protagonists. Some nice framing and interesting angles give perspective on events and characters without using words, which I always love to see employed correctly. Seamless CGI is also employed—sparingly, outside of the more “magical” sequences—but a lot of practical effects are used, as well. Edgerton’s make-up is all prosthetics, as well as a lot of the set destruction and elaborate costuming (a la—homework time, kids!—Ian Holm and Lance Henriksen’s dismemberment scenes in the original, best two films of the Alien franchise). The tone and bland color palette—sprinkled here and there with brooding, Suicide Squad-esque neons—are fitting of the atmosphere of the story, as well as the soundtrack (of which, the four best tracks I have on my personal playlist, after watching).

I could very well see this being a renewable series, despite the critical reception it’s gotten—see the MetaCritic score on the movie’s IMDb page. There’s nothing at the end to hint at this, but…I feel shafted; there’s so much ground left to cover—without retreading Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter ground—as far as in-universe lore and backstory, and character-building. Though this shouldn’t take multiple films to accomplish, anything can be done, with enough capital. The in-universe caste system, alone, deserves its own socio-political satire film.

Final ‘Risk Assessment: ***/**. In the end, Bright had potential, but its lackluster twist—which I saw coming a mile off—and lack of sympathetic characters didn’t deliver the “wow” I expected.

Still want a Jakoby spin-off film, though…

Written by Evan Kern

Just a twenty-something filmie trudging through adulthood. Taking it day by day, movie by movie. Words are life...

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