Director: David Ayer
Starring: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace
Well its been quite a while since I've gotten down to doing an actual single film review, and while in that time I've seen many movies, tonight's film in particular was one I was very much looking forward to. When I first heard about this fascinating Cop/Fantasy mashup I was cautiously optimistic. Director David Ayer, who is most well known for writing the script for the 2001 Oscar winning dirty cop thriller Training Day, can be very hit or miss. He can often turn out wonderful films like the aforementioned Training Day, and his other cop based movie End of Watch is one of the best "found footage" style films ever made. Sadly though he has had some not so great movies as well, 2014's Sabotage and last years Suicide Squad being the two worst offenders. To Ayer's credit though I don't know that the blame can land solely on his shoulders. With studio meddling being sited in both cases, and honestly I even enjoyed Suicide Squad despite its very obvious flaws. Just last week though the reviews for Bright started to come in and they were not good with many calling it the worst film of 2017, and this is coming in a year that has given us yet another Transformers, the dismal Justice League, and utter trash like The Emoji Movie! I have to say I found it hard to believe that the reviews could be anything but hyperbole and click baiting, but knew I'd have to wait to see it myself to find out. So are the critics right? Is Bright not only another bad Ayer helmed movie, but one of the worst movies of the year? Lets dive right in and find out.
Set in a world where fantasy creatures and magic exist, Bright follows Nick, the first Orc Officer admitted to the L.A.P.D., and his human partner Daryl, who is tasked with not only showing him the ropes, but keeping an eye on the new recruit. After a magic wand is discovered, Nick and Daryl must survive the night fighting off gang members, Orc packs, corrupt cops, and even a doomsday cult to protect the wand from falling into the wrong hands.
I don't understand what the critics are on about. I am honestly baffled and even a bit annoyed about it. Now by no means is Bright a perfect movie, but ill be damned if it isn't an extremely entertaining and exciting one. The strange sounding mixture of hard boiled cop flick and fantasy film shouldn't work, but somehow it does in spades. Themes of race and police violence are quite cleverly turned on their heads and explored in different contexts thanks to the fantasy world Bright lives in. This fascinating new world we are introduced to is absolutely engrossing, full of lore and fantastic creatures, and you leave the movie just wanting more of it. (Luckily for us Netflix has already greenlit a sequel.) Will Smith is in fine form in the best role he's had in years as Daryl, and Joel Edgerton is simply astounding as the rookie Orc cop. Edgerton's Nick is one of my favorite screen protagonists of the year and his character arc is such fun to behold. The makeup crew has worked a miracle because not only is the "orc makeup" extremely believable and interesting, but it allows the actors wearing it to emote and express just like they were wearing nothing at all. I went into Bright not expecting much, but came out not only pleasantly surprised, but confused.
So why? Why do critics hate this movie? It isn't poorly made. It doesn't look bad. There's not a bad performance in sight. The effects are believable and in the case of makeup, award worthy. So why? Why all the bad reviews? These are not just mediocre reviews mind you, there is real disdain and dislike for this movie. The answer? In complete and utter honesty, I do not know. You could postulate conspiracy theories about studios paying them off because they hate Netflix and it's threat to the system, or maybe they hate David Ayer, or maybe they just all woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day, but honestly I don't have a clue. The one thing I do know is this: You know that link up above for the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes? You see how, at the time of writing this, it has only a 28% out of 100 from critics? Look to the right. At time of writing it has an "Audience Score" of 89% out of 100. So at least I'm not the only one left puzzled as the credits rolled.
Back in May I had a similar confused reaction to the critical reception of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. I'd like to double down on the statements I made in that review that I think only ring all the truer: "Now does this mean I am right and the other critics are wrong? Not necessarily, but I have to say you shouldn't ever take what anyone has to say about a movie as the absolute truth. Myself most definitely included. So should you stop reading reviews all together? No. (Especially keep reading mine. I need the views for my ego....Tell your friends.) What you should do is this: read between the lines. Never take the final verdict of a review as wether or not you should see a movie. See what the person has to say about what goes on in the film and if that sounds like a good time to you then go see it! You might just find yourself enjoying and endlessly quoting a movie that everyone else seemed to hate."
Trivia from IMDB for Bright:
Given a budget of $90,000,000, this film makes it the most expensive Netflix movie to date.
Max Landis has stated that he turned down an addition £1 million for the sale of the script because he wanted David Ayer to direct. He had written the script specifically for Ayer.
This movie was on the 2018 Academy shortlist for possible nominations in the "Makeup and Hairstyling" category.