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Netflix's worst film

Spoiler alert: novice movie critique ahead. Was Netflix’s original movie a flop as anticipated?

Netflix’s original movie “Bright” was released Dec. 22 and was one of the most anticipated movie releases of the season. The trailer previewed humor, action and a hot topic issue: race. In addition to the many aspects of what makes movies great, Will Smith, once named “the most powerful actor in Hollywood,” plays the lead. However, critics had some harsh things to say: “Netflix’s ‘Bright’ Is a $90 million Steaming Pile of Orc Sh*t.”

But what is “Bright” all about and how did it hold up against what was intended?

“Bright” is set in present-day Los Angeles, California, and presents a society that humans, elves and orcs live together and have for thousands of years. Despite the coexistence, there are underlying tensions among all the races due to feuds that went unresolved. The opening of the movie portrays the cultural differences of the races. It then flashes to a scene of two LAPD officers Daryl Ward (Will Smith) and Nick Jakoby (unrecognizable Joel Edgerton) in a busy neighborhood where Jakoby was seemingly getting lunch and Ward was impatiently waiting for him and then was shot by an orc. Confusingly, it shoots to Ward waking up at home, so I was given the impression, at first, that it was all a nightmare.

I quickly discovered that it was not a dream but that Officer Ward was at home recovering after his incident. There was very clearly an attempt to make a familial aspect to the movie but given that there wasn’t but only one alternative reference in the movie, it was hard to connect with Ward being a family man.

Ward was placed with the nation’s first orc officer, Jakoby, and is quite obviously displeased about the pair. Ward is outspoken about his feelings towards Jakoby and even attempts to get partnered with another officer but was rudely told, “No one else wants to ride with you.” Ward and Jakoby make a predictable pair and their adventures, if you will, aren’t particularly shocking either.

Despite being directed by the well-known David Ayer and written by Max Landis, it clearly missed the mark on execution from the intentions behind the film. Seemingly the intentions behind the movie were fundamentally good. The main issue Ayer and Landis were attempting to tackle were race relations in America. With the current climate with police brutality, the divide between antifa and alt-right and the overall racism problems across the globe, it was noble of them to confront the issue in such a different way.

I have to reiterate that while the intentions were honorable, the execution surprisingly lacked and there were several mishaps in regards to the storytelling aspects of the film. There were also so many components to consider with this highly anticipated movie: a prophecy, racial prominence, keeping people alive and obviously setting up a sequel and the plot just wasn’t particularly surprising leaving the viewer, and me, disappointed.

In the beginning, Ward and Jakoby roll onto some expectable calls that clearly display the divisions in their world. Orcs are shown as thugs and elves are the one percent while the humans fall somewhere in between the two. It wasn’t until about thirty minutes in that I really understood part of the real problem and that was the police department was convinced that Jakoby had let Ward’s shooter go and internal affairs wanted Ward to snitch on his partner. Ward agrees but as he was getting a confession, they arrive on scene of the call that unfolded the rest of the movie and added an entire new wrinkle to the chaos of the storyline.

The two LAPD officers find a residence where magic was taking place and up until this point, magic wasn’t mentioned at all. Visuals that were clearly trying to be aesthetically pleasing could have used some work and it was hard to ignore the blandness of something that could have been much better done (especially with $90 million). Tikka, a rogue, magical elf, was found inside the building, chased down, astoundingly caught and dropped her wand.

I thought the visual aid to the wand could have used some work because it was just simply a glowing stick. It’s almost 2018, with all the technology that is available in the video editing world, the amazing tech geeks must be able to make something marginally more cool than a glowing piece of wood. Regardless, it was then I learned that only a bright could touch a wand, otherwise they would explode and kill everyone around them as well.

It was then that more officers accompany Ward and Jakoby on scene only in an attempt to steal the already stolen wand before the feds got to it – so confusing. Tikka had stolen the wand from Leilah, an inferni elf who is a badass even without her wand, is hunting down Tikka to retrieve what’s rightfully hers. In addition to Leilah pursuing Tikka, Ward and Jakoby (and the wand), the feds were also chasing them all in an attempt to stop the dark lord from returning. There were so many revolving aspects to the plot that it was not only confusing but also hard to follow. However, in an odd way, almost everything that happened was completely expected.

After many unoriginal battle scenes, Tikka reveals (through Elvish) why Leilah is chasing them in the first place. Jakoby acts as a translator despite the fact that when they first met Tikka, he confessed he wasn’t very good with translating Elvish. In another weird sequence of events, the three ended up in trouble with the orcs and Jakoby was killed because he wouldn’t give up the wand, but Tikka brought him back to life with her stolen wand.

The orc gang was so mesmerized with the entire ordeal they just let them walk out (all debts are forgiven if a super cool act of magic occurs in your creepy lair?). It was then Tikka reveals all the secrets about herself, in English (that she could speak all along), while she is dying for some unknown reason. She needs to be taken home (Ward was more than ready to bring her to the emergency room because that would have gone over so well). Home just happens to be where they found Tikka and, of course, they must go back.

Through more unsurprising action scenes, Leilah almost kills them all but it is revealed that Ward is a bright. I was waiting on that the entire movie because I felt that moment was the point of the movie, but it was clear that in order to maintain a sequel it had to be at the end. Tikka aids in Ward vanquishing Leilah, which engulfs the building in flames and Jakoby walks back into the burning structure to save Ward, ending the movie in what could be perceived as a new friendship, but the viewer will have to wait for the next movie, which is already in the works.

I appreciated the attempt at a new view on race relations but I was upset that I wasted two hours of my night to watch it. I think it could have been executed much better and there were some glaring changes that needed to be made. I wonder if the sequel will fare better? Personally, I’ll be spending my two hours elsewhere when it comes to Netflix.

Writer Profile

Alida Siebken

Radford University

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