I thought I knew what I was getting into when I started watching Bright on Netflix. It’s the most expensive Netflix original ever made, and so far it’s been massacred by critics. I haven’t seen a bigger divide between fans and critics in a while, so I gave it a shot thinking it might be enjoyable, and I was definitely surprised. It was far more entertaining than I expected, and the rich lore that is found in its world makes me want to see more in a possible sequel.
Bright meshes our modern world with an alternate fantasy world, populating Los Angeles with orcs, fairies, elves, and magic wands. The inventive way the two worlds are combined gives it a fascinating depth, which made me feel like there are elements to be explored outside the main plot of the film. I could see potential followups in the future delving into other reaches of this alternate universe, and the possibilities for what else can be done are quite vast.
The main orc in the film is Nick Jakoby, a cop played by Joel Edgerton. His partner is Daryl Ward, played by Will Smith, and the two have a rocky relationship. Some pretty intense moments at the beginning of the film showcase how much tension there is between them, and it’s not fun buddy cop tension. Jakoby is only trying to win Ward over as his partner, and Ward seems like he genuinely hates him. There is absolutely no chemistry at first, which makes for a pretty brutal dynamic between the two.
The constant conflict between them rages for longer than I expected, but it pays off by the end when it blossoms into something heartwarming and sweet. Smith and Edgerton are both fantastic, and while their two characters are very different, I was drawn to both of them in different ways that made me really enjoy watching them on screen together.
The makeup work used to style Jakoby and the other orcs is marvelous and quite creative. The entire visual style of the film, in fact, is something special. The unique designs of the magical creatures mixed with the gloomy, mucky atmosphere of the city makes for a distinctly different feel and tone. So many different locations are explored, and while at times the plot is messed up because we’re taken places that we don’t really have a reason to go to, it’s all so visually abundant that there’s always something cool to look at.
Bright has some narrative issues that can make the story feel rushed or jumbled at certain parts, but the journey we take with the two lead characters and the payoff at the end makes the overall ride a blast. The characters and the two lead performances are easily the bright spot in the film, and I can look past some of the issues because they were so entertaining. The action scenes are also a ton of fun and surprisingly well structured. I was entertained pretty much from start to finish, and the universe in which the film takes place is one that begs to be explored in greater depth. Some viewers may find the concept alone just plain silly, which is a valid argument, but I was fascinated by it early on and I’m eager to learn more about this world.
— Camden McDonald