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'Bright' is the worst movie Netflix has ever made

film review

The cast of the Netflix original film "Bright" speaks at San Diego Comic Con 2017.
The cast of the Netflix original film "Bright" speaks at San Diego Comic Con 2017.

As a tie-in with its latest feature-length film, Netflix released a promotional “Bright”-themed video fireplace. What an accurate depiction of this movie: an oil drum full of burning refuse. 

When problematic daddy’s boy Max Landis (“Chronicle,” “American Ultra”) said that “Bright” would be his “Star Wars,” it should’ve sent up red flags. This movie is unoriginal, uninteresting, unfunny, unlikeable and, worst of all, incompetent. The concept of a buddy cop movie set in a modern-day Tolkien-esque Los Angeles sounds incredible. However, director David Ayer (“Suicide Squad,” a movie currently outlawed by the Geneva Convention) finds a way to drain any and all personality from the movie’s premise. What’s left is a brain-dead script that looks to hit as many tropes as it can while meandering to its underwhelming finale.

Will Smith does not seem to care at all about his role. His one-dimensional demeanor isn’t surprising, given the script does absolutely nothing for Officer Ward, who spends half of his time on-screen confused and yelling. The film opens with Ward, finally recovered from a non-lethal bullet wound suffered in the line of duty, and every single member of the LAPD thinks his new Orc partner, Officer Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), looked the other way. The prejudice against the Orcs in Los Angeles is Landis’s take on real-world racial tensions. Thanks. For decades, black filmmakers have been using movies to expose their experiences with racial tensions and gang violence, but Landis thinks he’s really got a profound statement to make with his sloppy metaphor. Five minutes into the movie, Ward hits a fairy with a broom, saying, “Fairy lives don’t matter today!” I’m assuming Landis found this clever. The fantasy terminology mixed in with contemporary lingo is surprisingly unimaginative. The FBI has a new “Division of Magic.” The MacGuffin of the movie is a magic wand. The part of L.A. where the Elves live is called “Elftown.” Oh, like Chinatown? Hah. Expecting any nuance in a discussion on race from the movie at this point would be hopeless.

The main conflict of the film comes when Ward and Jakoby respond to a call and end up raiding a hideout for homegrown magic-terrorists. They discover the aforementioned wand, which only “brights” — people blessed with magic — can hold or use. Though mainly Elves, “one in a million” humans could be brights, as Agent Kandomere (Édgar Ramirez) informs the audience. (All the other characters in the room already know about brights, so this exposition must be for the viewer’s benefit.) “Gosh, I wonder if the main human character will find out he’s a bright by the end of the movie,” I said to myself. 

Now, Ward and Jakoby learn to overcome their differences while keeping the wand and a young elf named Tikka (Lucy Fry) safe, as they flee from a “Dark Elf” bright named Leilah (Noomi Rapace) intent on using the wand for generic evil. Good on Edgerton for being able to make sense out of Jakoby’s backstory and giving the best performance out of the whole cast. Jakoby is “unblooded,” meaning he hasn’t been honored in Orcish tradition, making him both an outcast in the LAPD and in the rest of his community. Though rich with potential, Landis’s script fumbles the resolution to his character arc. Why am I not surprised?

Ayer’s vision of this alternate L.A. reaches for “magical realism,” but the muddy cinematography and uninteresting characters make the city feel lifeless. This might be Ayer’s blandest-looking movie, even compared to “End of Watch.” The camera somehow loses track of the action in the fight scenes, resulting in a blur of blood splatter, breaking glass and backflips, each fight looking exactly the same as the next. The scenery is boring and repetitive, as the protagonists move from one urban street corner, to a rundown warehouse, back to another urban street corner, to an alleyway, to another urban street, to a club, to an urban street, to another club, to another warehouse and back to the same warehouse. The dialogue is unintentionally hilarious (“Feds don’t give a s--- about the L.A. Orc community”), but the movie lacks any sort of comedic timing or charisma, which leaves one-liners (“How are you gonna make a shootout awkward?”) to atrophy and wither. I don’t think there’s a memorable line in this movie, except for maybe Will Smith saying, “I don’t f--- with fairies,” while watching a Joe Rogan podcast. 

The movie’s 13-song soundtrack is equally forgettable, even as mismatched and incomprehensible as it is. The movie’s title sequence is underscored by a rap song by Logic about, uh, feeling the vibe? A slow-motion police shootout underscored by an acoustic Bastille song sounds too funny to be true. I wonder if the Bastille song was contractually obligated to  appear somewhere in the movie, and the producers shoehorned it in at the last minute. The various diegetic hip-hop songs in the movie come courtesy of Future, Lil Uzi Vert, Meek Mill and Migos, and each song sounds like a demo track never meant to see the light of day. The credits roll as rapper D.R.A.M. and folk rock artist Neil Young collaborate for the first (and hopefully last) time. Most of these songs are complete throwaways, suggesting that maybe these artists were too smart to waste energy or studio time on this complete throwaway of a movie.

Some movies that are completely inept end up being somewhat fun to watch. “Bright” instead turns out to be exhausting, a complete slog through a story that’s too predictable at times and completely illogical at others. Completely under-developing its premise, leaving too many plot holes and being unforgivingly boring, “Bright” is the dimmest blockbuster of the year. 

Astoundingly, Netflix greenlit a sequel before “Bright” even premiered. Netflix has come a long way, from begging to be considered a legitimate movie and television series production company to now claiming over 400 original series and movies. Their next step appears to be mounting a blockbuster franchise, something Disney’s Marvel Studios proved to be lucrative, Warner Bros.’ DC Universe struggles to mimic and Universal’s “Dark Universe” might be abandoning. I can’t think of a weaker foundation for a franchise than “Bright,” a movie so atrociously bad that anyone involved in this production (except for the makeup team that somehow got excluded from the six-minute-long credits) should be embarrassed to have it on their resume.


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