Netflix’s blockbuster cop drama, Bright, dropped this week – and it’s everything I never knew I needed in an action flick. From the mind of David Ayer – the guy who wrote Training Day and directed End of Watch (as well as another absurd DC flop that we’re not gonna talk about), Bright tells the tale of Officers Ward (Will Smith) and Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), the nation’s first Orc and Human cop partners.
Although Bright hits on a lot of the squares on your Buddy Cop/Cop Drama Bingo sheet, it provides some interesting twists and – most importantly of all – manages to integrate high fantasy themes (like orcs, elves, fairies, magic wands, and ancient prophecies) into a real world settings without being corny as all fuck. Bright succeeds where a lot of other fantasy franchises have failed, and I think that really starts with the incredible practical effects and makeup utilized throughout the movie. Every single orc in this movie is decked out in full makeup from the gangbangers to the pedestrians to Jakoby himself, and they manage to all execute the same feeling across the board. Orcs in every fantasy medium are big, lumbering, violent brutes who stick closely to their clan’s values and traditions, and Bright is no different in their treatment of the age-old fantasy race.
Bright also portrays elves as high-fashion loving, pompous, insanely wealthy 1%-ers, fairies as annoying, glimmering pests, and of course – the humans as a cagey, distrustful race caught in the middle of it all. Dwarves are also mentioned (once), leaving me to wonder what they look and act like, and this brings me to my biggest gripe with Bright: the world around it.
Los Angeles is pretty much portrayed in Bright the same way as it is in every other cop drama you’ve ever seen. It’s grimy, overpopulated, and every single citizen in the city seems to stick closest to the ones who look like them, all while maintaining a fundamental mistrust of anyone who looks different. That being said, we hear a whole lot about the world outside of Los Angeles, leaving me to wonder if the hatred and divisiveness exists anywhere else. One Orcish character even mentions that his former home in Palm Springs was nothing like LA, and was actually a safe haven where folks of all races got along. That’s just one of many social commentaries in the film, which it seems to rely on heavily. We’re often reminded that humans hate orcs, and that orcs stick with each other, but we don’t see why at all. We hear about a millennia-old war where humans and orcs killed each other by the thousands, but by-and-large, it seems like the animosity between humans and orcs is completely baseless (imagine that).
Overall, Bright is an awesomely entertaining (if a little color-by-numbers) action/drama flick that isn’t afraid to bend the rules of it’s genre, but outright refuses to break any of them. If you’re looking for another movie that shows Will Smith tossing smart-ass remarks around in a cop uniform, you’ll be entertained. If you’re looking for a movie to scratch your high fantasy, orcs and elves itch – you’ll dig it too. Bright’s got something for a lot of different audiences, and I truly hope we get more content from this universe because that’ll definitely serve to flesh out the world more and make it that much more interesting. I’d happily take a graphic novel, a full book, hell – even a web short or two – that gives Bright the additional context that would make the movie that much more engrossing for lore junkies like myself. All of that being said, Bright is able to stand on it’s own as a rock-solid cop drama/action flick, and would I highly recommend it.