Bright is the new Netflix film, starring Will Smith opposite Joel Edgerton as two who have to put their differences aside to fight an evil elf.
Directed by David Ayers (Suicide Squad, 2016) and written by Max Landis (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, 2016), Bright is about an alternate present day, where humans, orcs, elves, and fairies have been coexisting since the beginning of time. Two police officers, one a human – Darryl Ward (Smith), the other an orc Nick Jakoby (Edgerton), embark on a routine night patrol that will alter the future of their world as they know it. Battling both their own personal differences as well as an onslaught of enemies, they must work together to protect a young female elf and a thought-to-be-forgotten relic, which, in the wrong hands, could destroy everything.
So far the quiet mumblings I’d been hearing about Bright was that it was ‘weird’ and a ‘little boring’. Which made me anxious because like everyone else on the planet, I love Will Smith. As an actor, he makes good solid, likable films. As the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, he was the big brother I’d never met. Though it’s been a while that he’s had a knockout film, it seems outside of the Men in Black franchise, he’s not had a film which hasn’t split audience opinion, maybe since 2005’s Hitch, or possibly 2006’s Pursuit of Happyness… No need to mention 2015’s Concussion (Which wasn’t actually a bad film, but for that terrible generic supposed to be Nigerian accent and the odd romantic pairing of Smith and Gugu Mbatha-Raw). After watching Bright, I’m happy to say he made a good choice here, and upon reflection, all those who weren’t entirely sure about this film weren’t sci-fi/fantasy fans anyway.
Bright is good. Darryl Ward is an African American man in an interracial relationship with medic Sherry (Dawn Olivieri – House of Lies, 2012 – 2016), who is also the mother of their young daughter. He’s a barely surviving cop, who lives slap bang in the middle of gang territory, being terrorised by everyone from his rowdy neighbours, mischevious fairies with attitudes and now his new orc partner.
When speaking to Smith at the Bright premiere, he said the film deals with racial issues but doesn’t beat you over the head with it. He’s not lying. The racial tension is there. No one likes Nick Jakoby being the first orc on the force. His position enforced by diversity initiatives announced by the lawmakers, much like we have in our reality. Darryl hates that he’s partnered with Nick, especially after only just returning to work after being shot by an orc whilst on duty.
Nick is the metaphor for immigrants, Blacks, Hispanics; Others. Darryl represents the racist tendencies, usually the reserve of white people. With them both working for the notorious Los Angeles Police department, the irony isn’t lost, especially when in one scene Darryl, in an attempt to test Nick’s loyalty to the badge, pauses at the sight of his police colleagues using brute force on a couple of orcs.
Bright moves at a steady pace but has the feel of an elongated episode of a new series. The storyline surrounding rebel elf Tikka (Lucy Fry) and evil elf Leilah (Noomi Rapace) is quite underwhelming as it feels like we’ve been dropped into a story we already know. Again with this, not beating us over the head thing. Which means there’s no over explanation or obvious plot establishment scenes. It’s definitely not confusing and doesn’t try to be too clever, but as a result, Bright’s subtlety causes it to be slightly lacklustre in parts.
For it being a film starring Mr. Will Smith, we could have done with some Men in Black dramatics. Not to say there aren’t sufficient action scenes, it’s just a tiny lack of energy around what’s actually at stake. Another point, no matter how subtle, the use of ‘minorities’ to challenge racism and prejudice could be perceived as a massive sidestep and removal of accountability.
That said, it is an enjoyable watch. Smith and Edgerton have great banter. Their characters’ relationship as it evolves is honest and believable. Smith drops more than enough, to form classic one-liners. Edgerton holds his own and actually steals one of the final scenes.
In the time of Marvel series’ doing so well via Netflix, I wish and kinda hope there are plans for a sequel series with Bright. This film has so much more to reveal as there’s quite enough interesting themes and storylines which could be explored in this alternative now reality.
Bright lands on Netflix Friday 22nd December 2017
See TBB’s red carpet interviews via The British Blacklist YouTube page here.