The title is a misnomer, this isn’t very bright.
In an alternate reality where humans live alongside orcs and elves, the LA police department learn about an ancient magical artifact designed to return The Dark Lord to life. Officer Ward and his new recruit, an orc named Nick, find themselves in the middle of an all out war.
Describing Bright with such a simple synopsis really doesn’t help alleviate the absurdity does it? LA Police Department, Nick the orc, Will Smith, magic wands, Dark Lords. These are the reasons anyone watches Bright; it is too bizarre to ignore.
Considering Tolkien had written Middle Earth as some mythology for Britain, consider Bright what would have happened had Middle Earth evolved exactly the same as our world had. The orcs are thugs and criminals, the elves are incredibly rich and upper-class and in positions of power, while humans… are pretty much dominant across most sectors.
It is a unique and shockingly refreshing premise. A weird mix of Tolkien, Blade and End of Watch sees Will Smith as Ward and Joel Edgerton as his orcish partner driving around LA, dealing with elven assassins and orc gangs, tripping over much of this society’s prejudices along the way.
This is… sort of… where director David Ayer (Suicide Squad, Fury) and the writers fell down. Nothing and nobody in this film is remotely interesting.
While the premise is good and the budget is surprisingly large (this is Netflix’s most expensive production so far) there are very few things to hold on to in this film, from a character and storytelling perspective. Our two protagonists are immediately at loggerheads; Edgerton’s Nick’s negligence is presumed to almost get Ward killed, and the entire police force want Nick out. This compounds an already racist fury brewing in the department against orcs (not subtle subtext) as Nick is the first orc to enlist. Everyone hates Nick, even charming Will Smith hates him.
This escalates into what the film considers “character development”, where Ward complains that Nick is an orc and won’t watch his back in the field. Over, and over again, wasting time repeating the same dialogue. Dialogue that too often strays into ex-positional dumps: “Oh, I don’t do that, because orcs are known to not do that.” “Oh, they are speaking elven?”
How does a police officer in this world not know what elvish sounds like?
While Edgerton does get the lion’s share of any character development, the film wastes too much time on frivolous details that don’t help us bond with anyone, or understand the meaning behind anyone’s hopes or dreams. Then the film goes into the action.
And never stops.
This film is non-stop with its action and peril after the first… forty minutes? It is one thing after another. They are attacked by racist humans, they flee straight into elf assassins, they fight and flee… straight into a band of orcs… they get away… straight into more elf assassins. It never takes a break and quickly everything becomes noise. At this point it reminded me of Night Watch or Day Watch (but without the insane Russian stylised action). Just a cacophony of things happening simply because everyone wants the macguffin. A magic macguffin that does anything the plot desires; from killing people to conveniently not killing people.
Bright has good motivations and an interesting premise, but it is a garbled mess in the writing department, making it very forgettable as a story.
It is meant to be getting a sequel, and perhaps some of this film’s problems can be rectified.