There’s good fan-fiction and there’s bad fan-fiction. Bright is very bad fan-fiction.
Netflix’s most expensive film to date has been panned by viewers and critics but was picked up for a sequel even before its release. So why the negative criticism?
1 – Confused Plot
In the world of Bright, humans have been living alongside magical creatures for some 2000 years. Some of these creatures include Elves and Orcs, with humans falling somewhere in between. Elves are the supposed superior race, followed by humans. The Orcs are the oppressed race, seemingly paying for crimes they committed centuries ago.
Human Detective Ward (Will Smith) is partnered with Orc, Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton). Ward is back on duty after having been shot by an orc. On his first day back, he and Nick find themselves protecting a magic wand and the waif-like Elf who stole it, Tikka (Lucy Fry). On their (figurative) tails is Elf Leilah (Noomi Rapace) as well as the Feds.
The sped-up timeline of the film’s events makes it all the less believable. The protagonists are at each other’s throats, coaxed to betray each other, shot at and almost killed by three to four separate groups, all in the span of one day and night.
There are mentions of a Dark Lord, who can be invoked by the wand, but we learn absolutely nothing else about it barring these vague utterances. There’s also a throwaway line about the Army of Nine Races, presumably to add legitimacy to this world’s history but, again, it doesn’t really add anything to this current instalment because it’s so vague.
2 – A Confused Tone
When the trailer for Bright was released, most viewers expected to see a nuanced examination of race relations with a little bit of humour added in.
Bright is nothing like that. In fact, from the opening credits, it becomes clear that the film is an underhanded attack against so-called social justice warriors. The film opens with a fake production company, Trigger Warning Entertainment, followed by graffiti mimicking and mocking the black power salute.
When a fairy, a pest in the world of Bright, bothers Ward’s home, he kills it, proclaiming “Fairy lives don’t matter”. It’s hard not to look at this line as anything but a direct attack on the Black Lives Matter movement, even if it is played for laughs.
Then, there are the female characters. Noomi Rapace is a brilliant actor who is reduced to being the muscle in the film. Lucy Fry’s Tikka spends the duration of the film being a frightened manic pixie dreamgirl. These are the only two female characters, and they have no arc, no backstory, no substance at all.
3 – It makes Will Smith look bad
Look, Will Smith has had his share of duds in the past but even in those he manages to charm audiences with his charisma and strong performances.
Bright includes several scenes of ‘banter’ between Ward and Nick but Smith and Edgerton have so little chemistry, that these scenes fall flat. Smith emotes his lines with half-baked earnestness, practically sleep-walking through the film.
Edgerton’s humour is actually quite good but it belongs to another film. The beats are off completely and it shows truly awful direction on the part of director David Ayer.
4 – The Max Landis Effect
Recent allegations of sexual assault have arisen against Max Landis. Apparently, his behaviour has been a long-kept open secret. News of this, and his grandiose bragging about the script of Bright, which he proclaimed to be his Star Wars, makes this film tough to embrace.
Additionally, Landis is a writer who has been afforded many opportunities despite his sub-par execution. Bright shines a light on his unoriginality (Dark Lords, Wands, Fellowships – do these sound familiar?), his approach to racial and gender politics as well as his inability to handle a world of vast characters. There is a good idea lurking under some layers of arrogance in the script of this film.
Bright is a confused, messy film that takes itself far too seriously and purports to be much more important than it really is. The film’s underhanded reproaches against serious social issues, coupled with poor story-telling and direction make it a difficult watch.
Don’t forget to check out why the Digital Fox team didn’t think Bright was so bad.