Written by: Alex Green
The new Will Smith/NetFlix vehicle Bright is a movie that’s so wide off the mark, it makes The Room look like Citizen Kane.
Although it features a pretty impressive cast (Smith, Joel Edgerton, Margaret Cho and Noomi Rapace) a known director (Suicide Squad’s David Ayer) and a massive big-budget production price tag ($90 million), Bright is such a mess, it would have been more aptly titled Dim.
The movie boasts a fairly simple plot line: humans, Orcs and other fantastical creatures live together in a tenuous, but peaceable-enough kingdom and in that kingdom a human police officer finds himself paired with a rookie Orc to find and protect an ancient relic that everyone wants to weaponize for their own twisted agendas.
That’s pretty much it.
It’s a mash-up of Alien Nation, Training Day and District 9 that attempts to conjure a post-racial Los Angeles that’s hamstrung by drooling materialism and sheer class warfare. Well-intentioned, sure, but writer Max Landis has no idea what to do with the world he’s created and although it could have been an interesting and perhaps even profound comment on racism and corporate greed, instead it’s an inexplicable pageant of bullets, explosions and an endless storm of gleeful violence.
Smith is always fun to watch, but he’s trying too hard to be fun to watch; the soulful face of Edgerton is lost behind a shroud of makeup and the normally marvelous Rapace is utterly wasted.
Only Cho plays her role with delicious relish, making her the film’s only bright spot.
Like Suicide Squad, this is an empty blast of chaos that can’t distract you from the fact that the script feels like fourth draft: Characters aren’t developed, nobody’s likable, and there’s a conspicuous lack of exposition.
After yielding a mere 31% favorable score on Rotten Tomatoes, critics of the movie stepped from the shadows with their pens drawn.
The Daily Telegraph wrote: “You’ll either extend the movie the latitude [scriptwriter Max] Landis and Ayer think they deserve, or you’ll stare at it for two long hours wondering, amid the bullets and an awful lot of rainy confusion, why they think they deserve it.”
Forbes chimed in, declaring the film was: “…a visually grotesque, dreadfully dull and hopelessly convoluted would-be franchise action movie just as well as the stereotypical Hollywood machine!”
And Indie Write added their two cents: “Truth be told, Bright is so wretched that it invites only the most cynical of interpretations, leaving you with no choice but to assume the film was tainted by the knowledge that most of its audience would see it on their phones or laptops.”
Ayer bristled at all of this on Twitter, declaring the film is, “…a big fun movie.” He then tweeted: “Every movie is a labor of love for me. I’ve never chased the audience, and I know my work can be polarizing. I’ve lived a crazy love and I guess my movies reflect that.”
To be fair, Ayer has a dynamic aesthetic–he knows how to make the darkness glow and he knows how to find beauty in the murk. But he doesn’t know how to share that aesthetic in a way that feels universal. In other words, he’s like a virtuoso guitarist soloing away in the corner of the stage while his bandmates stare on, dumbfounded.
That said, “Bright” feels like one big guitar solo looking for a song.