Netflix has been upping the number of original productions over the last couple of years to inject their library of content with hours of entertainment not dependent on royalties to other companies. This effort has taken the form of superhero tv shows and indie dramas but Netflix has decided to throw their hat in the ring of what is blockbuster filmmaking with ‘Bright’, directed by David Ayer from a script written by Max Landis.
I won’t bury the lede that this is a bad movie. ‘Bright’ is just another episode in the long-running show that is male filmmakers failing into more projects with larger and larger budgets as David Ayer is coming off the much maligned ‘Suicide Squad’, that unfortunately made enough money to not put him in director’s jail. There may be more factors than just Ayer’s directing that resulted in ‘Suicide Squad’ but this trend still shouldn’t be ignored. ‘Bright’ is an interesting enough premise to begin with as this is an LA cop drama set in a world where Orcs and Elves and magic exist and have for thousands of years. When a couple of cops are called to investigate a disturbance they end up finding a magic wand and then shit really pops off.
I was mildly excited for ‘Bright’ when I first heard about it, not because of the players involved but because of the overall premise. I was ultimately let down as soon as marketing material started getting released though, much to my dismay. What started off sounding like training day with a dash of Tolkien ended up looking like exactly that, which apparently is something I’m less excited by than I thought. Ayer does little to expand on this premise as he substitutes graffiti and jerseys of fictional football players for actual world building. Multiple lines of dialogue touch on why Orcs are viewed as second-class citizens but we don’t really understand why this is when the credits roll. Having a psycho scream in the streets about the war of the nine races while Will Smith puts him in cuffs isn’t the same as explaining your mythology. All of this is to say that Landis was seemingly more interested in the aesthetic of Orcs and Elves interacting with the LAPD that he was the actual promise that this concept has. To make matters worse, Ayer was either uninterested or incapable of expanding on this with anything other than gritty visuals and a gun-budget that will undoubtedly dwarf the tax cuts middle class Americans are alleged to see soon.
‘Bright’ isn’t all doom and gloom though as Will Smith and Joel Edgerton are occasionally allowed to show some real chemistry and even humor at times, although I credit these talented performers more than the material they are given. Edgerton is especially impressive here acting through what has to be almost his bodyweight in makeup which is matched by the extras that fill every scene. The special and makeup effects in ‘Bright’ are truly impressive and what this film becomes is undeserving of them. With Noomi Rapace as a powerful Elven magic user with no motivations and Edgar Ramirez as en Elven federal agent who is given far too little attention, you have even more tools that are wasted by the crew behind this flick.
‘Bright’ could have been a gritty cop drama with fantastical elements injected throughout, or it could have used the multiple races of creatures as a substitute for actual tumultuous race relations that seem to plague this country endlessly, but both of these ideas are just dusted atop something generic. What you are left with is a failed attempt at a truly original blockbuster that still checks the boxes made necessary by audiences and major film studios. Since Netflix doesn’t release streaming numbers and they use a suggestion algorithm I would call questionable at best, we will likely not know how audiences really feel about this and are left with the criminally misunderstood Rotten Tomatoes to judge this garbage fire by. You are already paying your $10 a month but please don’t click play on ‘Bright’ as I can’t in good conscience suggest you encourage this kind of behavior. We as an audience deserve better, and frankly, Netflix does as well.