REVIEW | ‘Bright’ tackles too much and comes out underdeveloped

December 23, 2017 - 10:57 AM
Joel Edgerton and Will Smith in 'Bright.'

Set in an alternate earth, where elves and orcs and fairies live with human beings, “Bright” is an urban fantasy cop movie that tries to tackle racism and police brutality but loses it halfway in the adventure involving magic and an underdeveloped prophecy.

In this world, the cops of LA are not well-liked and all the races are stereotyped — orcs are hated and regarded as dumb, elves are rich and elitist, and humans are caught in the middle. The desired effect is to somehow tackle racism but this time, it’s discrimination based on actual species.

The first half of the film is on the nose and plays off very heavy-handed as Will Smith’s Office Daryl Ward is partnered by the only orc cop in LA, Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton). Jakoby is hated by the orcs, who sees him as a traitor, and he is distrusted by his colleagues.

There’s a tension between the two as Jakoby’s loyalty to the police force is constantly questioned. All the while, the police are beating up orcs on the streets while a crazy human carrying a sword is treated with kid gloves. It harkens to real world issues about police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, but for some it’s so brazenly connected that it feels forced or manipulative.

As the relationship between Jakoby and Ward grow worse, with pressure from other police officers to get rid of Jakoby escalate, they answer a police call to check out a disturbance and find themselves in the middle of a fight between two Brights, persons who can wield magic, which happens to be illegal.

The film shifts instantly from social commentary to adventure when Ward and Jakoby must now protect the mysterious elf Tikka (Lucy Fry) from a dangerous elf called Leilah (Noomi Rapace) and keep Leilah from a powerful magical wand.

Word has gone around that the three have a wand and they must run away from gangs (both humans and orcs), dirty cops, and Leilah and her cult while Jakoby and Ward must find a way to trust each other to make it through the night.

“Bright” has a lot of potential but it is squandered away by rushed storytelling that is more focused on letting Will Smith be Will Smith. There seems to be more care in allowing Smith to throw some funny one-liners than there is to really develop a story.

Throughout the whole film, there are hints at prophecies, a dark lord, a history of why the orcs are hated so much but none of this is really explored so it makes everything that happens seem inconsequential. At the same time, there is so much attention on Ward that the film seems to forget that Jakoby is actually the more interesting character in the film.

The two elves, Tikka and Leilah, are not even developed at all that they become more plot points than anything else.

It’s unfortunate because you can see that they are hoping to create a franchise with this but there isn’t much here to go along with. Its real world social commentary gets shoved aside quickly to boost the action, but the action is shot in a confusing way. So much is happening and with so many close-ups and quick cuts, it’s hard to follow the movements. And, ironically, the film is so dark that a lot of the detail is lost.

“Bright” doesn’t quite land its punches but if the rumors are true and the sequel has already been greenlit, hopefully, they will take their time to develop the other characters and the world building in the next installment.