When I said David Ayer is a good director that was given terrible material in my Suicide Squad review, I meant it. He may have an early 2000’s style that persists throughout his filmography, but you can tell the man cares about his craft. He does the best he can because he loves making movies. It was unfortunate he was shackled to something as terrible as Suicide Squad and screwed over in the final cut. His previous work Fury and Sabotage reveal his competency and skill as a director. Without Warner Brothers hovering over him, Ayer has room to breath with Bright. Is it a return to form or should he retire?
In a world where fantasy and reality are one Officer Ward, played by Will Smith, is assigned to his orkish partner Jakoby, played by Joel Edgerton. On a routine patrol they stumble upon a conspiracy involving elves and destructive magic.
Obviously I am a little late to the party. I was not planning on writing a review of Bright until I decided to make reviewing Netflix Originals a thing. I do not usually watch stuff online, but I figured with what I did watch I would take it a step further. I may do this with some of Amazon’s content if I ever decide to get Prime. Being an online platform that is not connected to the Old Guard, Netflix is free to take risks in their various endeavors. As a critic it is a whole new land to conquer.
When it comes to satire, it is essential that you suspend your disbelief or miss the point. The nature of the genre is symbolism and metaphor in service to a message. While satire is not serious, you are meant to examine and analyze the subtext in regards to how it reflects upon the real world. RoboCop used cartoonish corporate executives and a hilariously dystopic setting to explore themes of corporatization and fascism. The same can be said for Starship Troopers where it was designed to be a Nazi propaganda film. 1984 created whole systems of government control that are virtually impossible to implement in a realistic sense to examine very real totalitarianism.
Bright uses fantasy tropes to shed light on social problems. Orks are a minority group that everyone hates and elves the upper class that controls everyone else, including humans. Orks are considered despicable for events that happened in the past and are targets of police harassment. Ward has is own issues with Jakoby and tries to get reassigned to another human on a regular basis.
Bright is obviously satirizing America’s alleged problem of police violence. The orks are African Americans being discriminated by humans, us Whites. It is very blatant and does not pull any punches. Even a blind person could see what Bright is doing. It is also a serious movie that does not joke about the premise or is self-aware. The whole time you expect Will Smith to make jokes and he plays it straight all the way to the end. In some parts the characters will essentially turn to camera and give a speech on equality to make sure you are keeping up.
This ultimately keeps the film from being complete satire. If there was some levity and a sense of disbelief, the message would have more impact. You would be compelled to consider how it reflects reality because it inspires questions. Bright is too close to reality and does not stand out enough to feel otherworldly. All it does is take real world concepts and switches them out with fantasy. It is blatantly simple, which means it is not difficult to comprehend. You are not forced to consider how orks are related to minorities because that is exactly what the movie makes them out to be. 1984 was unbelievable, but it made you think about parallels to the real world.
Taking out the satire, Bright is basically an action movie with fantasy elements. Rather than take its concepts to the extreme like Shadow Run, the action is standard and not really unique. There is one part where Jakoby gets hit by a car and walks it off because orks are naturally strong, but it is mostly gunfights with some acrobatics and magic. The scenes where Noomi Rapace flips around stabbing thugs were pretty great. Do not misunderstand, Bright has good action, but it is not special or really worth greater consideration.
In terms of performances, this was one of Smith’s more serious roles. The overall tone hamstrung his charisma. He did not have much in the way of laughs or cathartic appeal because he was deadly serious the whole time. It was the strangest thing to watch: the most charismatic actor in Hollywood playing it totally straight. Edgerton always does a good job as a character actor, but this time he was under layers of make-up. All of the ork characters have dentures and full cowls with contact lenses that were probably irritating to wear. That is a lot to deal with as an actor and Edgerton makes do.
Again I am very late to give my opinion on Bright and I do not expect it matter at the time. It rides the line between watchable and mediocre. It tries to say something and fails, but it is still entertaining. This was a step in the right direction for Ayer, sticking to what he knows, and doing it well. It is undeniable Bright was still a fun despite its flaws. If you need to kill time and want something entertaining, it is free if you have Netflix.
(Muh book: http://a.co/gR6nlr7)