I’m going to just come out and say it: Bright is a hot mess. The Netflix produced film stars Will Smith and Joel Edgerton, and is directed by David Ayer, who also wrote and directed the similarly horrible Suicide Squad. The premise of the film isn’t bad at all, but the movie fails miserably in its execution.
Imagine Lord of the Rings, but moved forward a few thousand years so that the natural pace of technological advancement happened. Now toss in magic, elves, orcs, and other fairy kind into the modern setting of Los Angeles and you’ve got the world of Bright. This alternate history worked out ok for humans and especially well for elves, but not so much for orcs. You see, once, long ago, there was a dark lord who attempted to enslave all the peoples of the world. That is, everyone except for orcs, who chose to side with him. When the dark lord was defeated (as all dark lords always are), the orcs were left behind to deal with the fallout. As one might imagine, things have not gone well for the orcs since that time.
“Orcs chose the wrong side, and we’ve been paying the price ever since.” – Nick Jakoby, Orc and LAPD officer
Orcs are looked down upon, shunned, alienated, and discriminated against. They’re a big part of the criminal element in Bright, though more of the thuggish kind. Elves are actually worse in some ways because they’re so precise in their brutality. Humans are far from saints, too. All told, the Los Angeles of Bright is a dark, dismal place.
So far, not bad. The setting is ripe for some good storytelling, which really gets going when police officer Daryl Ward, played by Will Smith, and his partner, Nick Jakoby, played by Joel Edgerton, come across a magical wand. Only Brights can even touch a wand; anyone who isn’t a Bright who lays a bare hand on a wand is instantly vaporized in a very messy, pyrotechnic display. Wands are very powerful, very rare, and, if legends are true, might someday bring about the return of the dark lord. A power struggle ensues between the wand’s owner, a bitch of an elf who is quite brutal; the young elf who stole it from her; various human and orcish street gangs; renegade cops; and our heroes, who find themselves protecting the young elf who stole the wand from just about everyone, including their own police force.
This could have been a great movie, but Bright really fails when it comes to direction. Once all the seeds are planted for the larger story, what ensues is a chaotic mess of bloodletting, shooting, cursing (every other sentence has the F-bomb in it, which is fine if needed but its usage is way overboard and unnecessary), and plot devices that open doors to places the director never chose to go to.
I will give the writers some credit in that they’ve created a very complex world with all of the problems we have today but with fantasy races thrown in. It really creates some interesting dynamics, like how elves have set themselves up as the elitist segment of the population and how orcs are persecuted much like certain ethnicities in our own world have throughout history. But there are so many avenues left unexplored that I came away unsatisfied as the movie really boils down to one long shoot’em out scene. Perhaps Bright would have been better served as a Netflix series rather than a movie, so its rich world could be explored in more detail. Unfortunately, with David Ayer at the helm I fear even that still would have gone off the rails in short order.