Will Smith is currently on the promotional tour for ‘Bright’, the latest Netflix original film. When asked to summarise the premise, his explanation is that the film is a combination of ‘Training Day’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’. This is certainly one ploy to generate interest for the film. After all, ‘Training Day’ is one of the best police dramas of its genre, and though I haven’t seen it for many years, I still remember it fondly. While ‘Lord of the Rings’ is a much beloved fantasy epic, one focused on destroying a powerful object. Where the heroes are required to travel across Middle-Earth, meeting various fantasy characters along their journey.
‘Bright’ certainly has all the window dressing of the aforementioned films. You have your two police officers who are reluctantly partnered together, one is new and one is close to retirement as the cliché goes, and you have a world filled with Orcs, Fairies, humans, Elves, magic and a dragon. One night, the pair discover a powerful wand, one that is desired by all. A wand that will grant wishes, wreak horrifying destruction in the wrong hands, and destroy those who are unable to handle its great power.
‘Bright’ is the latest project from the partnership of Will Smith and David Ayer, who last worked together on the mess that was ‘Suicide Squad’. Now to clarify, I do not have a bias against Ayer as a director. For in the past I have rather enjoyed his work, such as the excellent police drama ‘End of Watch’ and the powerful war epic ‘Fury’. Both are prime examples of excellent, moving, filmmaking. So regardless of my feelings towards ‘Suicide Squad’ I was actually quite looking forward to watching ‘Bright’.
We live in a world where Trump is president, where the KKK somehow still exists, and where we are, for the most part, trying to become a more politically correct and equal society. 2017 saw the ‘Take A Knee’ protest against the abhorrent treatment of the black community by the police, and though this protest has been ‘misunderstood’ by some (Fox New) as an insult to those serving in the military. For those of us with who have our mental faculties very much intact and functioning, we are reminded on an almost daily basis of the levels of racism still rampant in America. So, when I started watching ‘Bright’, I was absolutely appalled by its subject matter.
When one thinks of Orcs, and my only source material is that of ‘The Lord of the Rings’, one congers images of massive, hulking creatures with incredible brute strength. So, to not only use these characters as the new victims of racism, indeed the stereotyped parallels between the black community and Orcs is so overwhelmingly obvious, for Orcs are either gangsters, cleaners or spend their time in strip clubs; but for Will Smith to be leading the charge as the human protagonist is both insulting and shocking. We really must ask ourselves as Netflix customers, why was this ever commissioned? And secondly, why did Will Smith, one of the most successful black actors in America, agree to play this role?
The film opens with Will Smith, who frankly phones in his performance with clichéd lines from his previous work such as ‘Bad Boy’ and ‘I am Robot’. Smith has been in recovering, having been shot point blank by a shotgun fired by an Orc is now preparing to return to active duty. Oh, did I mention he’s 5 years away from retirement? He is asked by his wife to deal with a fairy situation, by this I mean an actual fairy is for some reason determined to eat bird seeds, much like a magpie does. Smith begins attacking the fairy with a broomstick. He manages to hit the creature out of the air and onto the ground where Smith promptly and unnecessarily stands on the creature, leaving it twitching horribly on the ground, the imagery is genuinely disturbing. He then turns to the crowd of neighbours to declare “Fairies don’t matter today”, ah because of course, metaphorical racism towards imaginary creatures in a human world is totally fine. This frankly surmises the level of racism humans have towards any creatures, baring elves, who only escape the abhorrent mistreatment because they are not only the superior fighters but a higher class of wealth.
Joel Edgerton is totally unrecognisable as the Orc Jakoby. He has been ostracised by his community for wishing to become a police officer, presumably owing to the violent racism Orcs are subjected to from the police. Yet he is also an outcast in the eyes of his fellow officers for not only being the first Orc on the force, but for also allegedly allowing his partner, Ward (Smith), to not only be shot by an Orc but for failing to catch said Orc. Jakoby spends an exhausting amount of time trying to prove his allegiances to Ward. Is Jakoby an Orc or a Police officer? For surely one cannot be both. The finely veiled racist metaphor is so poorly explored it feels as though the film is constantly trying to force it down the viewer’s throat. With scenes of police brutally, and Jakoby being the first one of the pair to be arrested because of this race, something that is literally said.
‘Bright’ is ‘Suicide Squad’, it has the same mix of modern music, though admittedly it’s edited better this time, and is very much a case of style over substance. For the narrative is not complicated, a human and an orc are paired together, one is racist, one is trying to live his dream of being a police officer. They spend most of one night on the run with a wand which everyone wants. They must deal with gangster humans, unnecessarily gymnastic elves, (It does not require a backflip to move from a window sill at chest height to the floor), a number of corrupt racist cops, and must work within the confines of some farfetched and obvious mystical prophecy. The film even goes so far as to mention some dark lord who shall rise again, and yet move past the halfway mark and the film entirely forgets its own backstory.
OVERALL * – One of the worst, the most racist, most idiotic and dull films I have seen in a long time. I only give it a * for the makeup, and for a few action sequences that were somewhat entertaining.
RECOMMENDATION – Avoid this like the racist plague it is.