Dealing with racism through the metaphor of supernatural beings in a world very similar to our own, Bright is superficially similar to the vastly superior Alien Nation. Will Smith plays the mildly racist cop Daryl Ward, with Joel Edgerton as his stoic Orc partner Nick Jakoby. In a world full of fantastical creatures but little magic, the discovery of a magic wand sets off a chaotic night with Ward and Jakoby protecting the wand from the various groups intent on wielding its’ power. There’s also some stuff about a prophecy, but if you’ve ever seen that trope in action Bright won’t surprise you.
Alien Nation had a set-up that was easier to execute – aliens arrived on Earth in the recent past and are attempting to integrate – whereas Bright’s lore requires the rewriting of at least 2000 years of Human history.
But not all of Bright’s flaws are a result of its’ ambition – on a basic storytelling level the film fails in a number of ways. The big twist towards the end of the film is heavily foreshadowed and disappointing in execution, not to mention that it plays into the ‘chosen one’ cliche, one of the most annoying tropes in the fantasy and science fiction genres. Other than wanting power and to serve the Dark Lord I literally couldn’t tell you anything about the main villain, Leilah, as a character. The wand is effectively a Chekov’s gun which is never fired – the audience are told several times that it has incredible power to rewrite reality but this is never shown.
That’s not to say that the film is entirely bad – it’s disappointing, but there’s enough about the world that’s entertaining and intriguing to make me glad that I watched it. Some of the sub-villains are interesting in their perspectives and motivations. This is a world that I’d like to spend more time in, just not necessarily following this particular story.
Joel Edgerton is a compelling co-lead, who bears the prejudice of his colleagues with admirable restraint. Despite being the designated protagonist Will Smith doesn’t have enough to work with to make his character any more than an inferior retread of his role in I, Robot. Noomi Rapace is utterly wasted in a role which is ludicrously underwritten.
Netflix commissioned a sequel to Bright before the first aired, which despite my qualms, makes a lot of sense. Bright set up a world that engaged me, just not necessarily this story. Judging purely from Bright, Max Landis isn’t a good enough writer to meet the challenge he set himself with the premise, but with a better creative team on board, the Bright franchise has the potential to be a cult classic.
Verdict: an interesting concept that doesn’t reach its potential.
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