Release Date: December 22nd, 2017 MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: David Ayer Actors: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, Lucy Fry, Edgar Ramirez, Veronica Ngo, Alex Meraz, Happy Anderson, Ike Barinholtz, Dawn Olivieri, Jay Hernandez, Margaret Cho
n an alternate reality on Earth, orcs and elves and fairies and centaurs (among other unnamable fairy tale monsters) live among humans. Overpopulation has grown even more problematic, contributing to greater gaps in financial equality, while rife racism/speciesism has compounded socioeconomic contentions. In this urban Lord of the Rings type of world, LAPD officer Daryl Ward (Will Smith) becomes a victim of a shooting, solely because he’s human. During his recovery, Ward’s psychological difficulties are heightened due to his partner, Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), an outcast orc – who has been disowned by his people for his decision to join the human police force (a “diversity hire,” according to his intolerant coworkers). And Daryl blames Nick for not backing him up properly.
“Everybody’s just trying to get along and have a good life,” Ward insists to his young daughter (Scarlet Spencer), even though he doesn’t truly believe it. When Daryl returns to work, his primary concern is whether or not Jakoby’s loyalties reside with the department first – or with his fellow orcs. When Ward is approached by Internal Affairs, hoping that he’ll record some dirt on Nick so that the human supervisors can finally be rid of the troublesome entrant, the human cop reluctantly agrees. But as they continue their law enforcement routines, including investigating drug dealers and gang members, engaging in shootouts, and contending with raving lunatics wielding swords, Daryl begins to realize that an orc just might be the only person he can trust.
The setting may be Earth, but it has an entirely different history, which spans thousands of years, complete with additional religions and traditions – and even a great prophecy. Yet despite the integration of various alien species (Elftown is the wealthiest society, full of fancy cars and exotic clothing), technology and everyday interactions/behaviors haven’t evolved much. Weaponry and vehicles and even clothing aren’t hi-tech; cars don’t fly and cops don’t shoot laser blasters. Comparatively, sensitivity toward others remains low, though there’s still a political correctness wafting about the characters, as many of the situations mirror current societal prejudices and ignorances.
As the world is being introduced, a series of facetious spats and observations on alien conduct appears, as if “Bright” hopes to be a buddy-cop action comedy. But regardless of a few unfunny jokes, the tone stays dark and dour, rarely deviating from its focus on general ugliness and bloody violence; it’s closer to a police procedural or thriller, which fails to mix with the intermittent ribs. And although it opens like a cross between “District 9” and “In the Heat of the Night,” the story quickly devolves into an overly complicated (yet wholly unoriginal) blend of Tolkien-esque magic-wand-hunting, fearful exclamations of the return of the Dark Lord, and Magic Task Force agents always two steps behind the action. An abundance of expletives also detracts from the levity, sucking all the humor from sarcasm and banter that weren’t terribly chipper to begin with.
As the mismatched duo navigate through an unfriendly underworld of anarchic brutes, they gain a seemingly fragile ally (Lucy Fry as Tikka) and are stalked by a white-haired demoness (Noomi Rapace as Leilah) searching for her lost wand. In “Bright,” the premise of incorporating disgruntled fantasy creatures and their perpetual rivalries into a present-day crime drama is essentially all there is; the rest of the film is a lengthy chase full of gangsters and other enemy obstacles, in which extreme repetition and inexplicably skillful opponents shoot and destroy everyone and everything in their path. Thanks to some special effects and stunts, a handful of exploding vehicles/buildings and machine gun duels ensue, but the characters are so uninteresting and unsympathetic that it’s difficult to care about their hardships or successes.
Also contributing to the lack of meaningful details is jargon about the Shield of Light and the coming of an evil entity who will wipe out billions of innocent people. When all of this is wrapped up in talk of a prophecy, it becomes even more pointless; all the participants are special in some way, or capable of extraordinary feats, or are effectively invincible, even when their combatants possess noticeably superhuman speed and toughness. By the end of it all, it’s evident that the filmmakers thought they could transplant a tired story into a visually different universe to fool audiences into thinking they’re seeing something new. But “Bright” is incredibly derivative and practically unwatchable.
– Mike Massie