Sunday, January 14, 2018

Netflix & Chill #36: Bright

Watched On: Netflix
Released: 2017
Starring: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Noomi Rapace, Lucy Fry, Edgar Ramirez, Ike Barinholtz
Rotten Tomatoes: 27%
Pick: Mine

Set in an alternate version of the present where human rub shoulders with orcs, elves, centaurs and dwarves after fighting with them for thousands of years, Bright opens with LAPD Officer Darryl Ward (Will Smith) returning to duty after being out of action due to being shot by an orc. Ward is reluctantly partnered with Nick Jackoby (Joel Edgerton), the nation's first orkish police officer. Humans aren't crazy about him due to his race, orcs hate him because of his position and to top it all off Ward isn't crazy about his partner because Jackoby apparently let the assailant that shot him get away.

Responding to a report of a crazy man waving a sword around, they find a Shield of Light devotee, whom Ward and Jackoby arrest and take back to the station. On the way back there, he tells Jackoby in Orkish that two officers are part of a prophecy and that Ward is blessed. Once back at the station, however, Ward is approached by internal affairs, who say that believe that Jackoby but his ethnic loyalties above his uniform and let Ward's assailant get away. They want Ward to get Jackoby to confess on tape, so they can fire him.

Ward and Jackoby head back out onto the streets and respond to a disturbance at what they find out is a Shield of Light safe house. Inside, they find a bunch of bodies and a torso of a still living elf-woman embedded in the wall and one survivor, a young elf named Tikka who has a wand. Magic wands are exceedingly rare and powerful and can only be used by what's called a 'Bright.' Things take a turn, however, when four officers arrive as backup and decide to kill Ward and Jackoby and take the wand for themselves.

Ward is coerced into going back outside to Jackoby, but instead confronts him about the incident that got him shot. Jackoby admits letting the suspect escape, but only because he cornered the wrong orc and realized that responding officers would probably shoot him on sight. Ward then makes the decision to shoot down his corrupt colleagues and he, Jackoby and Tikka flee with the wand. Unfortunately for them, everyone find out that they have the wand and gangs both human and orkish want it for themselves. To top it off, there's a Federal magic taskforce that's on the case and in hot pursuit as well and dark elves intent on using the wand to resurrect The Dark Lord, a mythic figure who will take over the world.

After fighting their way through just about everyone, Ward and Jackoby end up in Shield of Light safehouse where they are trying to heal Tikka and in one last desperate confrontation with the dark elves, Ward grabs the wand, discovering that he himself is a 'Bright' in the process and blows up the dark elf, taking out the safe house in the process.

The next day, Ward and Jackoby meet with the Feds and while Jackoby volunteers the truth, Ward sees that the Feds want to keep the incident quiet and emphatically denies it had anything to do with magic or police corruption. Satisfied, Ward and Jackoby are released and honored by the city for their actions.

I was genuinely shocked that this movie only scored a 27% on Rotten Tomatoes, because I thought it was a genuinely good movie. I guess maybe I could see the point of the critics to a degree: if you're watching this movie looking for social commentary, then the commentary to be found in this movie is ham-fisted and not exactly subtle or all that uplifting. If, on the other hand, you wanted to see what a fantasy epic would look like in a contemporary setting, then Bright will knock your socks off. I love the fact that they just drop you into this version of Los Angeles like it's just another afternoon and while the 'racial' tensions depicted in the movie probably don't land well when applied to contemporary police-community relations, I found them to be plausible at least. (I think a footnote in a Discworld novel said something along the lines of: "white and black got along fine and ganged up on green.")

Overall: This was a solid, entertaining movie that gave a tantalizing glimpse of what fantasy can do when dropped into a contemporary setting. Plenty of authors from Jim Butcher to Kim Harrison and Charlaine Harris have shown what you can do with the genre when mashed up into our contemporary world. Bright is one of the few movies that's attempted to do something similar and the results are amazing. I love that they don't bother to explain the world you're dropped into, they just do it. And it works. The cast is great, the story excellent and you're left intrigued by the possibilities of this world and wondering what else they could do with it. My Grade: *** out of ****

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