Netflix released Bright starring Will Smith the other day (Dec 22nd), and I found some unexpected free time today where a 2-hour movie could fit.
The above image comes from Vanity Fair, who are far less flattering in their review than me. I might be biased, wanting a movie like this to work more than I care about whether it deserves a place in a cinematic hall of fame.
Here are my spoiler-free thoughts:
Bright is a good movie–not amazing, not without some obvious faults–and I look forward to more of this fresh setting and novel concept.
I say “novel” because I can’t think of a modern fantasy movie that’s worth its entry fee. In books, video games, and tabletop RPGs, modern fantasy has long been a thing. Shadowrun springs to mind, though Bright lacks the cyberpunk flair.
Pros: Will Smith is Will Smith. He can’t help but shine. I already mentioned the novelty of the setting, but I like that they pointed to a history they didn’t bother to fully explain. It feels more like a real world that way, and the few times they slipped exposition into the dialogue didn’t feel too painful or forced. Bright touches on the expected themes: racism, privilege, tensions between communities and police forces. For the most part, I think it does this believably and effectively. The action is entertaining, a nice mixture of magic and gunfire. Most of all, Bright scratches an itch I didn’t know I had and makes me want another installment without leaving big questions unresolved. It’s almost like a good pilot for a series, and instead, you’ll get another sequel with Will Smith and presumably the rest of the main characters.
Cons: It felt like a really slow build. I didn’t really care about what was happening until a good half-hour in. Some of the “reveals” felt all too obvious and expected. You’re probably going to call a few things as soon as you realize they are part of a subplot, and you’ll be right. I guess it IS fantasy so certain things are going to go the main characters’ way, or else we wouldn’t be reading about them. This is Tolkien in the modern world, not Game of Thrones… not that Tolkien is a bad thing, but I know it’s not what some people want. Somehow our heroes survive fights with creatures that can breeze through LAPD SWAT teams. The villains felt a little hammy and made some really stupid decisions–or failed to take action when they should have. (Kill your foe, don’t gloat.) Finally, either magic is relatively tame unless you have sweet gear, or nobody really unloaded their magic skill… and I have no way of knowing which is the case.
None of that detracted enough to make me regret watching, and I heartily recommend a viewing. However, I’ll caveat that with…
Bright is definitely for mature viewers. Depending on your taste in films, you might balk at the strong language throughout the film, or the frequent graphic violence, although the latter is more tame than what makes it to the big screen. The characters do enter a strip bar at one point and breasts are shown.
My two cents. Your mileage may vary.
If you watched it, what do you think? Let me know how wrong I am in the comments section.