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Netflix’s Bright: A Throwback or Uninspired? – Review

Warning spoilers ahead!

Netflix has produced a variety of brilliant shows in the last few years. From Lucifer and a reboot of Sabrina the Teenage Witch to Altered Carbon and Love, Death, Robots. From Sex Education to Disenchantment. Pick a genre, open up Netflix, and Netflix will deliver. However, there are a certain few Netflix Originals that have left us a little disappointed. Such is the case with Netflix’s 2017 movie, Bright.

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Bright is the almost Lord-of-the-Rings-esque modern-day story of orc and human life. The movie takes place in an alternate crime-ridden Los Angeles in which magic is a part of everyday life. Orcs, humans, and elves are at war. Orcs represent the criminal, living in the ghetto, and are oppressed by humans who think of themselves as superior. Elves have chosen not to partake in the kerfuffle and have withdrawn to being an underground organisation that operates independently of the other races and their laws. Humans, of course, take the top spot and crown themselves the dominant race. The story begins as two cops, one human and one orc, set out on an adventure. It begins as grimy police work and ends with impressive yet seemingly pointless magic.

The majority of the population is human, yet the elves seem to be the more powerful race as they appear to be better than humans in every way and come with the chance of being a “bright“, an elf who is capable of wielding a magic wand. A “wand” being a mystical all-powerful weapon which only “bright’s” can control without suffering demise. And that is where the movie’s problem begins. The movie’s plot is a so-called quest for a weapon that could turn the tide in a criminal, corrupt fight between humans, orcs, and elves. If the elves possess a wand then they are likely to dominate the other races. There is also the prophecy of the Dark Lord’s return and how someone wielding a wand could stop him, but that fact is overshadowed. I say “someone” and not “an elf” because one of the main narratives of this movie is that one of the characters is not an elf, and yet still capable of wielding the wand.

Bright has a brilliant foundation. A famously large Netflix budget. An objectively great lead-actor in the form of Will Smith. An interesting adventure/fantasy platform for creating a story about what current-day interactions between humans, orcs, and elves might look like. But right from the get-go, Bright makes it out to be a world of pain and inequality with little respite for hope or success.

The film is clearly missing something. It is not a mystical, beautiful land similar to Lord of the Rings, where an all-powerful ruler wishes to conquer the flowing hillsides of Middle Earth. It doesn’t have the flair. In Bright, there is no sense of adventure. Not only is the movie shot in many dark, urban locations, it also suffers from a distinct lack of epic-ness. Lord of the Rings presented a “quest”. And it did it so well that six movies on, if you include The Hobbit, viewers still want more. In Bright the lead actors are generally unaware of what they are doing or what they are trying to prevent, the return of the Dark Lord.

Bright has another problem. Sadly this problem is set deep in the plot of the movie. It is a modern-day remake of the fantasy worlds of humans versus orcs. Police brutality and corruption run rampant in an LA too large to be governed by mere police. Gangs are considered a better alternative than the chaos that having no gangs would bring. The police, no longer able to control the city, accept gangs for what they are and essentially give up on trying to improve LA. This would be fine if the movie didn’t put so much emphasis on what a dark bleak world Bright is set in and how little hope there is for a better one. The magic of the movie is lost a little among the modern, criminal, corrupt city houses of LA. The quest for the wand is also diminished as the only reason the wand is needed in the first place is for the fight against the Dark Lord, who does not even make an appearance. Instead, the Dark Lord is at a guess left out of Bright only so he can make a grandiose entrance in the sequel which might never happen. The Dark Lord’s arrival also doesn’t seem that terrible in the face of the already dreadful life the population of this LA resides in.

The conclusion of the movie sees Will Smith’s character revealed as a so-called Bright, one capable of wielding the magic wand of all-powerfulness. However, the fact that his character is now an important and integral part of the fight against the Dark Lord, is covered up at the end of the movie when the two cops are debriefed by the FBI, who are incidentally also after the wand. It seems that even the FBI can’t be trusted and only the main characters of this movie alone will be able to make a difference when the Dark Lord eventually decides to turn up.

So, one has to ask themselves: is Bright a good movie? Because, thanks to it’s high production value, it lets us see expertly CGI’d mystical creatures and enjoy at least that part of Lord of the Rings again. There is, of course, the magical story of the human “Bright” that is almost really good but falls short. Alternatively, is the depressing, overshadowing nature too much for the viewer to enjoy what otherwise would make for a fun, engaging fantasy movie? Well, that is something everyone should decide for themselves. I personally really enjoyed the movie the first time I watched it. However, the movie did leave me wishing for more of a fantasy movie and less of a cop movie. Here’s to hoping the sequel is made and redeems the story of Netflix’s Bright.


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