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Review: Bright (2017)


Title: Bright (2017)

Genre: Action, Crime, Fantasy

Director: David Ayer

Stars: Will Smith, Joel Egerton, Lucy Fry, Noomi Rapace

Bias: I absolutely hated Suicide Squad, but thought I'd give Bright a shot based on the premise and some comparisons critics have made between it and Alien Nation (Baker, 1988).

Grade: D-

In a Nutshell: In a world where fantastic creatures like orcs, fairies, and elves live side by side with humans, LAPD officers Jakoby (Joel Egerton) and Ward (Will Smith) are embroiled in a vast conspiracy between warring factions when they find a rare magical wand. They must keep the wand from falling into the wrong hands while being pursued by orcs, a Latino gang, evil elves, and federal agents from a magic task force.

The Critique: I...don't even know where to start. One of the biggest sins this film commits is simultaneously believing its audience to be too stupid to understand it and being intent on "world-building" that drops in hints at lore that is never fully explored but referenced as if the audience should already understand it. Vacillating between "let's have Will Smith incredulously describe everything that is happening so the average viewer will get it" and "remember the story about Jirak, an orc farmer like 2,000 years ago who led an army, who we've inexplicably never mentioned until now?" the film manages to be both frustratingly opaque and painfully predictable.

The social commentary about racism and prejudice is about as muddled as the storytelling. One of the first lines from Officer Ward, the purported "hero" of the film, is uttered as he uses a baseball bat to kill a fairy that has been getting into his bird feeder: "Fairy lives don't matter today." Ha ha. Watching a grown man beat a living creature to death is sooo funny, right? The trope of Will Smith as prejudiced cop/military officer is pretty played out at this point (in I, Robot he hates robots, in I am Legend he hates vampires, in the MiB series he hates "illegal aliens"), and it feels especially egregious to see a black man being lectured to about prejudice by a white actor in orc make-up. Although I have lots more to say on how weirdly racist, sexist, and generally shitty the politics of this film are, I'm going to move on (lest this become more rant than review).

To add another layer of garbage on the steaming pile that is Bright, the music cues and editing in action sequences is painfully bad. It is the kid in class who thinks he's clever, but everyone around him is rolling their eyes and waiting for him to shut up. The use of Bastille's "World Gone Mad" as [SPOILER] Ward shoots a group of crooked cops, all in slow motion, was enough to make me hit pause, get up, and walk away. After seeing something like that you just need a mental break. Or to actually break something.

There is also at least one instance in the film where poor editing choices ruin what is clearly supposed to be an important moment. [MORE SPOILERS AHEAD] When Ward and Jakoby are being questioned by the orcs, they refuse to give up the wand. Tension builds as it becomes clear that the orcs are definitely willing to kill the officers (and their elf ally, Tikka) if they don't hand over the wand. Suddenly, one of the orc henchmen picks up the duffel bag that the wand has been in the whole time. There is no shot establishing where the duffel bag was in relation to the characters at any point during this scene, and it isn't ever clarified why or how the orcs didn't look in this VERY OBVIOUS HIDING PLACE before wasting their time torturing the officers for information. Literally a single shot of Jakoby tucking the duffel bag into his hoodie, out of sight from the orcs, would ensure that this scene makes sense to the viewer. I'm just going to assume Ayer was too busy choosing incongruous music and workshopping overwrought dialogue to notice the lack of basic continuity in the film. Luckily he'll get a do-over with Bright 2, which has already been greenlit by Netflix (ugh).

Shout-Out(s): The only reason I'm giving this "film" a D- instead of an F is because Will Smith is fun to watch, even when bogged down with stupid dialogue and a ridiculous plot.

To Go, Rent, or to Netflix: Cancel your Netflix subscription to avoid this film.

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