Review - 'Bright'
When Netflix first released their trailer for Bright earlier in the year, I was intrigued, not exactly because I expected that it would be great, but because I'd never seen anything close to resembling a buddy-cop fantasy film. David Ayer has a muddled track record with an equal measure of failures to match his successes, so with Suicide Squad being the last bullet out of the chamber (even though I actually did find plenty to enjoy about that movie), I thought that just maybe Bright would be a rebound. What I got was a half-baked effort that wallowed in mediocrity for it's entire run-time.
Bright takes place in an alternate version of Los Angeles, one occupied by orcs, elves fairies and magic. The film follows Dale Ward (Will Smith) and his partner Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), who are partners in the LA Police force. When they come across a coveted and highly dangerous artifact, they find out that just about everyone around them is willing to go to any extreme, including murder, to get their hands on it.
What makes Bright such a disappointment is that it had every opportunity to go off in a wild and unexpected direction, but it never had the courage to make any sort of plunge. This film is literally End of Watch with a generic fantasy skin grafted on top. Ayer sure does know how to do the buddy cop thing, but he really isn't that creative when he is forced to think outside of that box. Sure, this movie has orcs, elves and fairies, but that's really all they are, they're the most basic, bland interpretation of what most people would think these races would look like. This movie is so lazy with its fantasy that they literally call magic wands...wait for it..."magic wands". Guillermo Del Toro, David Ayer is not.
In addition to the lacking fantasy world-building, the writing in Bright is oftentimes very poor. The dialogue, at least when it's not between the two main characters, is borderline terrible. There's also so many plot developments that happen seemingly at random just to make room for an action scene. Speaking of the action, save from a few well-staged sequences, isn't much to write home about. This film would have made a much better case as a good action film if it had trimmed the unnecessary scuffles that dilute it's bigger, more satisfying sequences.
On the other side of the coin, David Ayer really nails the chemistry between the two main characters. Will Smith is top-billed here, but the real star is Joel Edgerton, who imbues his orc character, Jakoby, with real heart and earnestness. It's a bit odd to have Will Smith playing such an un-charismatic character verses the infectiously watchable hot-head he usually plays, but I'll chalk that up to being a creative decision that goes against expectations. Despite a not-as-watchable Will Smith, I still found his relationship with Edgerton's character to be satisfying, and their character arcs more meaningful than anything else in the movie.
I also appreciate the way this film looks. There are many shots in this movie that bring to mind the neo-noire look of John Wick, mixed with a dash of Blade Runner for good measure. In addition to this, the soundtrack and licensed music is fitting and helped immerse me in the setting.
In the end, Bright is a poor attempt at a modern-day fantasy film, and that's because it's so averse to taking risks in fear that it might weird out the mainstream audience it's reaching out to. There are kernels of great ideas here, and the chemistry between the two leads is pitch-perfect, so here's hoping the sequel that has already been green-lit really swings for the fences.