Bright (2017) is a curious beast. It’s a Netflix original movie, originally released on the streaming service on 22nd December 2017 and currently only available there. It stars Will Smith and Joel Edgerton, who is pretty unrecognisable under his Orc make-up.
Yep, that’s right, I said ‘Orc’.
In the world of Bright, races usually consigned to Middle Earth or other fantasy realms co-exist in an alternate modern-day Los Angeles.
200 years ago, the “Dark Lord” arose and waged war across the Earth and initially the Orc race sided with him, until an ‘unblooded’ (more on this later) Orc farmer named Jinga rose up and convinced the Orcs to join the forces of good, which turned the tide, resulting in the defeat of the Dark Lord.
Whilst ‘nine races’ are mentioned during the movie, we only get to see the Elves, Humans and Orcs in any detail, although a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo of a Centaur police officer is briefly shown. The Elves are rich, beautiful and live in their own gated enclave in the centre of the city, from which they apparently run things. A brief short-cut taken by the two main characters through elftown highlights this disparity of living conditions between the elves and the other two races, with every car on the exceptionally clean streets being a supercar.
Our two main protagonists are Daryl Ward (Smith) a human LAPD officer and his Orc partner, Nick Jacoby (Edgerton). Jacoby is the first Orc to ever become a police officer and suffers abuse from both his rascist co-workers and his Orcish kin, who feel he has betrayed his race. Ward doesn’t want Jakoby as his partner, but has very little choice in the matter and harbours resentment towards him, as Ward was injured whilst on duty due to Jakoby not watching his back and allowing the Orcish perpetrator to escape.
So far, it’s very much a buddy-cop movie, with an urban fantasy twist, which reminded me of the similar, if science fiction, film Alien Nation (1988).
On a routine call to a disturbance in a rough neighbourhood, Ward and Jakoby come across the main plot/Maguffin of the movie – a Magic Wand in the hands of a young Elf girl. Magic Wands are extremely rare and can only be safely handled by “Brights”, hence the title of the movie. They are supposedly capable of doing anything the user wants – in essence, they are unlimited wishing sticks – and the F.B.I. has set up a special Magic Task Force to recover and contain any that surface.
Unfortunately, the wand belongs to the leader of a sect of Elves who are dedicated to resurrecting the Dark Lord – the Inferni – but was stolen by one of their number who had a change of heart.
The main crux of the movie’s plot is therefore Ward and Jakoby’s attempts to prevent the wand being recovered by the Inferni, whilst also preventing it from falling into the hands of those who seek to abuse its power, including human and Orc street gangs and a bunch of corrupt cops.
And here’s the trailer, so you can get an idea of what the movie looks like.
Now, that’s given an overview of the movie’s plot, the question is – is it any good?
It’s not too bad, to be honest. As it concentrates on ‘street-level’ characters, it doesn’t overuse special effects to bedazzle the viewer and those it does use fit within the overall story being told. The Inferni assassins are suitably nasty and deadly, as Elves in the world of Bright are tough, athletic and fast, wiping out their opposition – both police and street gangers – with a selection of bladed weapons. The Orcs we meet are fulfilling the role of the lower-class citizens, being primarily ‘gangstas’, but this makes sense in a world where they are distrusted by the majority of the populace. The Orcs value bravery, wherein an Orc can only be consider ‘blooded’ when they have completed an act of unstinting bravery.
It’s pretty action-packed, with car chases, gun-play and some interesting fight scenes and there were a couple of ‘That’s pretty cool” moments for me.
But certain aspects of the plot were quite predictable and were telegraphed in advance. Saying that, there were also a few twists that I wasn’t expecting, so it could still surprise you.
The film was panned by the critics, who felt that it was trying too hard to be several different things at once without succeeding and that it was heavy-handed in its social commentary, but apparently the casual viewers were more positive about the film in general. It’s certainly done well enough for Netflix to commission a sequel, with the same cast.
I quite enjoyed it. It’s not ‘summer blockbuster’ fare, but an entertaining ‘popcorn’ movie that introduces an intriguing and different world that I’d like to see more of.
This gets 3 of 5 Caws from the Carrion Crow.