Fans of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings have probably all wished at some point that they could arise one morning and walk amongst magical creatures. These mystical beings might make our world more enticing and adventurous or at the very least break up the daily monotony that seems to bog us all down. With his new film Bright, Suicide Squad director David Ayer unveils a futuristic graffiti laced Los Angeles where Orcs, Fairies, Elves, and Centaurs live and thrive amongst human beings.
Will Smith and Joel Edgerton star as LAPD Officers Daryl Ward and a Deputy Nick Jakoby– a human and diversity hire Orc respectively, who are reluctantly bound together as partners on the force. With just five years until he receives his pension, a weary Ward is clinging to his job and his life so that he might be able to provide a future for his family. However, retiring unscathed might be more difficult than he expected. In this world, racism looks different. Humans rank well below the glamorous Elves who have taken over the posh districts of the city. In contrast to Ward, Jakoby adores his position on the force, though he’s ostracized by other Orcs who turn their nose down at him for betraying their race. Things are also difficult for him on the job where officers berate, abuse, and distrust him. With glimpses of vicious Fairies, magic wands and the upper echelon of the Elf communities, Bright sets the scene for a nuanced and detailed LA that should be right out of a fairy tale. However, things don’t stay quite so magical.
Out on the beat one day, Ward and Jakoby stumble across Tikka (Lucy Fry), a young Elf with powers (called a Bright) in possession of a coveted magic wand. On their quest to get Tikka and the wand to safety, Ward and Jakoby must evade a diabolical Elf named Leilah, a witch who seeks the power of the wand for herself. The men are also up against their fellow police officers, Orcs, and LA gangsters who are also desperate for the potent artifact. This is where the storyline stops being riveting and fresh. Ayer who wrote the screenplay for the phenomenal Denzel Washington led Training Day, takes a significant trope from the older film –one so easily recognizable that it was almost comical to watch again, sixteen years later in Bright.
With all of its folklore and mystical affirmations Bright should be an entertaining crime drama through and through. Regrettably, uneven dialogue and jokes lacking true wit fail to enchant the audience leaving us instead to do more work then we should have to in order to piece together Bright’s storyline. In the end, the film felt more like a thinly sketched out video game plot than a full-fledged fantasy film.
Bright has some merit, especially if you’re into magic wands, explosions, gun fights and Will Smith, but perhaps the most disappointing thing about the film is that it could have been so much more. In this day in age, when commentary about race, police brutality and white privilege are scattered across the news and continually being pinged to our phones, there was an opportunity to dive further into this type of social commentary. Instead, Ayer and the film’s writer Max Landis chose to collide along the surface of that commentary.
Overall, Bright was interesting enough to watch; Smith was heroic as usual with his typical quips and heroic gestures. But, what stood out above all else in the film was Enrique Ricardo Murciano’s electric performance as the wheel-chair bound gangster Poison. Fans of Starz’s Power will recognize the actor as the fan favorite Lobos who stole multiple scenes in the series. Murciano is just as charming and fantastic in Bright.
When it comes down to it, Bright has the star power, special effects, and the mythology to tell a captivating and compelling story. But ultimately, it refuses to take any real risks.
Bright debuts on Netflix Dec. 22, 2017
Aramide A Tinubu is a film critic and entertainment writer. As a journalist, her work has been published in EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her Master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami