“Bright” was in the last week of 2017. Starting with a Netflix original that was released between semesters: “Bright”. Will Smith and Joel Edgerton star in this action-packed cop drama where fantasy meets reality in the present day streets of LA. Officer Daryl Ward (Smith) is partnered with the most hated cop in the city, an Orc. The two go out on a routine patrol when they discover a magic wand that leads them into a city-wide manhunt with the targets placed on their heads.
The movie doesn’t open with all that action through which is effective at world-building. We see scenes of today’s L.A. but with a fantasy twist. The graffiti that dots the streets displays declarations of orc pride, complaints about the privilege of elves, and foretelling the return of “the Dark Lord,” all while the soundtrack chants “we’re broken people now” over a hip-hop beat. Herein lies the films main detraction: it aims to handle present-day issues with a thin fantasy veil. This feat can be pulled off well like in Bill Willingham’s “Fables” book series and even in Disney’s “Zootopia,” but in this film, the jarring shifts in tone and the transparency of the social commentary come across as silly.
To the film’s credit, it has a brisk pace and a strong momentum that carries the audience through the action. After the credits, we immediately meet our main characters in a vignette that sets up the stakes and central character conflict of the film. Fast forward a little and viewers will see that the acting is good at bringing even the most ridiculous writing to life. Viewers believe that Ward and his wife have been dealing with a fairy infestation for weeks. They’ll believe that Ward’s fellow cops genuinely fear and hate his Orc partner, and They’ll believe the cliche lines about “the Dark Lord” and “the prophecy” because of the quality of the acting. That isn’t to say that the acting makes up for all the film’s shortcomings.
The film sets up a lot of plot points that don’t get resolved for the audience in satisfying ways, if at all. It is hinted that Officer Ward is part of a prophecy that is never explained, and after hearing what the antagonist’s plan promises, audiences will find themselves wanting them to succeed and being disappointed when they fail if only to see what it would look like. These disappointments make you wonder why they even introduced all these magical elements in the first place.
Despite the negativity, fans of fantasy will be compelled to watch the film from beginning to end. It is interesting to see how ideas of heroic mythology clash with the setting of the present day. The prospect of seeing more movies like this in the future is exciting. It just happens that this time around, the ideas were executed poorly.