In the Watch This Next column, Man of Many takes a look back at a great TV show or film that may have slipped under your radar. Given the near-limitless entertainment options in the Netflix era, it’s easy to overlook amazing content in favour of the latest hit. For every Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad or Stranger Things, there’s another thing equally worthy of attention and we make the case for why you should watch it and where you can find it.
With the sequel coming up, we decided to take a look at the Netflix film that was a critical disaster, despite its interesting premise. In an alternate present-day Los Angeles, the story of Bright is filled to the brim with fairytale creatures, lore and magical weapons. To its detriment (but also to its credit?) Bright’s cup runneth over with clichéd action sequences and mic-drop taglines from the Fresh Prince himself—the star of the film, Will Smith. All of this is tempered by the charming and more subtle performance from our very own Joel Edgerton.
Smith plays a battered, up-to-his-human-eyeballs in debt L.A.P.D officer who loves his wife and just wants to make it to retirement. Unfortunately, he’s been saddled with America’s first orc policeman, Nick Jakoby (Edgerton). Their relationship is not a buddy-cop match made in heaven.
Bright presents us with a not-so-subtle Lethal Weapon parallel. Will Smith is getting too old for this shit, and Jakoby just wants to be left alone with his chance to prove himself. The twist, however, is that the eyes of the nation are on Jakoby and Ward—orcs are none too liked, you see.
As the story unfolds, we learn that elves are at the very top of society, the 1%, if you will. They control the money and the power in Los Angeles. They’re visually attractive and supposedly more intelligent than humans and orcs, although they’re not winning any popularity votes from the general public.
Then you have orcs. Most are ‘blooded’—you can tell if their bottom teeth are at proud full-length. In order to achieve blooded status, an orc must be witnessed by some form of a clan, which is essentially a gang, a homage to Mad Max in this case. Jakoby unfortunately, has never had the honour. He’s an outcast, his teeth filed down and so too is his self-esteem. This makes him the most empathetic character in the film and thus the most likeable. The whole movie he takes shit and doesn’t deserve it, and he’s actually pretty loveable if I’m being honest.
Humans are somewhere in the middle, the white-collar species. But they are not without their prejudices. Most, if not all humans in Bright despise the orcs, painting them all with the same brush due to their old allegiance to the dark lord.
2000 years ago an elvish baddie known as the dark lord, aka ‘He who shall not be named’, aka Sauron, used a magic wand to enslave and torture those he deemed unfit, but was defeated thanks to friendship and overcoming differences and blah, blah, blah. The shield of light exists now to ensure his return never comes about, despite being poorly run and apparently disbanded. The only knight of the shield of light we’re introduced to is a homeless man drunkenly wielding a sword. He’s not impartial to throwing up in cop cars, either.
But enough background. The guts of the plot are in the ‘one night from hell’ that Ward & Jakoby face together, as partners. On a routine call into the ghetto, the two unlikely heroes come under a hail of gunfire. Upon successfully killing the assailant the two scope out the ‘abandoned’ building to discover the truly haunting scene of an elvish woman in peril. She’s harnessed to a wall via magic tendrils and they appear to be sucking her life force. She looks none too healthy as a result, and this serves as one of the films most cinematically gripping moments.
Soon after, a skittish yet ninja-like elf appears and it turns out she has one of the few magic wands left in the world. Every character henceforth treats it, and the idea of any wand, with the kind of reverence one, would associate with the holy grail. Do you want a million dollars? Done. Want to blow up an entire city? No problem. The point is, wands are the bee’s knees and you definitely want one. Alas, unless you are a ‘Bright’ you’ll explode upon touching it. Bummer.
Backup arrives and a few bad apple cops try to kill Jakoby and Ward and steal the wand, but Smith is having none of that. He kills them all expertly and the two set off into the night pursued by human gangsters, magic police, servants of the dark lord and orcish clansmen.
Despite its hugely interesting premise, Bright falls short due to a lack of cohesiveness. There are great scenes followed up by completely pointless ones and this issue left me feeling a bit disoriented by the end. The metaphor for the mistreatment of orcs v African Americans by the L.A.P.D is certainly an obvious one and Netflix should have delved into this more by allowing the movie to slow down a little and let the film’s stars execute some more subtle character acting.
The soundtrack is stellar, with a mix of metal (orcish music), hip-hop and a few classics, thrown in for good measure. It highlights the eclectic mix of cultures in the L.A of our world and its grittiness too. Unfortunately, Bright will never be considered a classic in the fantasy/action genre, although it definitely tries.
That said, Bright is a shitload of fun. It’s so bad it’s actually pretty darn good and if you were to be with a group of friends watching it I could think of no better popcorn flick to pass the time. You’ll find yourself rolling your eyes just as often as you’ll catch yourself mentally fist-pumping when the unloveable duo manages to escape intact from the numerous scrapes with death they encounter—and they are bloody numerous. Explosions, magic, Will Smith, sexy female elves, orcish death metal….what’s not to love?
Bright is streaming now on Netflix.