Impressively drawing in 11 million views in its first weekend, the much anticipated Netflix Original fantasy feature Bright has received something of a lukewarm reaction from audiences to put it mildly. The streaming service reportedly signed major $90 million movie deal with Will Smith for the rights to this buddy-cop adventure ahead of the likes of Sony and Warner Bros.. A figure that perhaps does not reflect on the actual quality of the finished article.
Bright is set in an alternate version of our present day where humans, elves and orcs live amongst each other in uneasy peace after millennia of war and struggle. There are also centaurs, and fairies, and probably other mythical creatures..! The story takes place in Los Angeles and stars Will Smith as cop Daryl Ward and Joel Edgerton as his partner Jackoby, the first orc to make it on to the LAPD. Ward has just come back to work after being shot by an orc, an incident possibly caused by Jackoby slacking on the job.
Needless to say the two do not get on, and end up embroiled in a plot for a Dark Lord to return, as a young elf (Lucy Fry) ends up with a magic wand and on the run from Noomi Rapace’s Leilah. This all takes place amongst Ward and Jackoby’s colleagues conspiring to try and get the Orc off the police force and the FBI, who have a magic division, trying to trace the wand. Oh and there’s some gangs, both human and orc, causing general disruption.
Perhaps in many ways if Rogue One was a gritty Star Wars spinoff, Bright could, in another world, have been a gritty Harry Potter spin off.
However, Bright was far from enjoyable, which is a real shame as it promised to be something genuinely original and interesting. It tries to do too much, causing it to fail to deliver on many fronts. The world of Bright would possibly be one I would like to revisit in future sequels or spin-offs; but here, not enough focus is given to any one particular element of the plot. Either the Dark Lord returning (we barely find out who he is or why him returning is that bad), the FBI trying to seize the wand, or the cops trying to get rid of Jackoby should have taken the lead, but instead spreading itself so thinly leaves all elements of the story resolved poorly.
Perhaps a Netflix Original series, spread out over an number of episodes or even seasons, giving each plot time to develop and space to breathe, would make Bright work a lot better. Crammed into a two-hour film just renders Max Landis’ script somewhat untidy.
There a couple of positives. It is an interesting concept, albeit executed poorly. Unfortunately David Ayer has made something that is more Suicide Squad than End of Watch. Nevertheless, Bright does look good, contrasting the fantasy elements with the seedy underbelly of modern day LA, and some of the back and forth and banter between Ward and Jackoby is good in true buddy-cop movie fashion.
Although none of the performances are particularly engaging, Edgerton is unrecognisable under all his prosthetics and is the best thing in it by some way. Will Smith, who is so often good if not great, is at his worst here just pulling either a trademark Will Smith “confused”, “sad” or “angry” face.
Alas, so far as Will Smith buddy-cop films go: it’s not Bad Boys. Just a bad film.