NETFLIX (2017)

 

Director: David Ayer

 

Starring: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, Lucy Fry, Édgar Ramírez, Veronica Ngo, Ike Barinholtz, Jay Hernandez, Alex Meraz, Happy Anderson

“You touch my wand and it’ll splatter you all over the walls…”

 

An actual line from an actual movie.

 

Netflix has barged its way into blockbuster territory with the very expensive Bright – complete with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton in tow to lead things off. Set in a modern-day Los Angeles, society is a mix of elves, humans and orcs (with a few pesky fairies flitting about) with the orc oafs very much at the bottom of the rung. It’s been this way for a few thousand years and tensions between the three races have always been simmering away.

LAPD Officer Daryl Ward (Smith) is a veteran of the beat, but now faces the challenge of being partnered with Nick Jakoby (Edgerton) – the first orc cop. With the entire police force against him because of his race, and his own race deeming him a traitor, Jakoby has a tough journey ahead of him. A routine evening turns into mayhem when they stumble across an ancient magic wand – one that only a ‘bright’ can handle (a bright being a superpower elf or sometimes humans). After a failed police coup against them, Ward and Jakoby stumble across a grubby looking elf known as Tikka (Fry) and attempt to hide the wand. They’ll need to as dark elf Leilah (Rapace) and her clan of death elves are after that wand and will stop at nothing to get it.

 

There’s more to it than that but it gets lost in a myriad of strange dialogue, basic naming conventions and ideas (Magic Task Force, Dark Lords, and Great Prophecies), naff music and just general naffness.

 

Plus, Will Smith is looking old.

 

Bright is a movie that wants to tell a story regarding social commentaries on race and attitudes – Will Smith manages to say the line “Fairy lives don’t matter today” with a straight face – but the ideas are passed over in favour of just…action. That in itself is a shame as it could and should have formed the solid foundations from which to build the movie. Instead, moments form and are then dashed aside or the graffiti is sprawled across the city acts as the screaming device to let you know, “Hey, no one gets on here, isn’t this a bit meta?!” The gritty cop movie takes over from nuance and when that part isn’t particularly great, then you’re onto a hiding to nothing.

 

It really is Joel Edgerton underneath all that make-up and prosthetic work and maybe he chose the image to hide his blushes? In reality, Edgerton is the best part of the movie and his character is the only one who really receives any depth and his sympathetic performance adds a much-needed layer of pathos to the movie. Will Smith is just Will Smith, though this time with less urgency than normal. Noomi Rapace looks great as an elf – as does Lucy Fry, doubling as Leeloo from The Fifth Element – and is OK in her stalking, villainous role. The majority of characters seem to all blend together and end up being forgettable.

 

Also - mmm tikka, yummy! (The curry, not the character)

 

The dialogue just isn’t very good. Businessman asking if “orcs have mad hops” made me shudder. Maybe it was the present day urban fantasy setting being unfamiliar leading to the shouting about wands, dark lords, brights, evil elves sounding just strange and slightly comedic, I don’t know. Plus, cuts like “I AM the city!” never help anything. The (probably unknowing) reference to Sing Street was one of the only highlights in the script – “Drive it like you stole it”, barks Will Smith.

 

As mentioned, the music sucks. It’s not quite as in-your-face as Suicide Squad’s (also directed by Ayer) but it doesn’t land as anything other than desperately trying to seem ‘cool’ and ‘hip’. It’s not good. The grungy visuals don’t help the movie any more than the soundtrack does.

 

The idea of Bright is actually damn good. The idea of races having to co-exist after a war thousands of years ago is intriguing and throwing in the challenges faced by Jakoby, this movie could have been a lot stronger had it focused more time on those aspects as opposed to bad one-liners and F-bombs. With a sequel already having been green-lit, here’s hoping they build on what could be a pretty strong lore and mythology.

 

With a Lord of the Rings sort of meeting Training Day feel to it, Bright succeeds with its ideas but fails with its execution. The minor chemistry between the leads doesn’t help the movie and once it became clear that subtlety and emotion were being blasted out the window, the movie quickly began to sink. A classic case of ‘what could have been’ from Netflix’s debut mega movie.

December 22nd 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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