director: David Ayer
writer: Max Landis
starring: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton and Noami Rappace
genre: Action | Fantasy
released: 22 December 2017 on Netflix
Netflix is desperately trying to go toe and toe with the big boys after securing the services of Adam Sandler and now having in their ranks Will Smith for a film series of elves, mages and orcs. This is all enough for most popcorn fans to bite and see what Netflix is cooking up. Especially with the value and the comfort of sitting at home to see such a film. Otherwise, would this film had been worth your time? that is the question in the digital age for cinema these days.
In a world similar to our 21st century one, humans aren't the only intelligent species. This world is occupied also by elves and orcs (no dwarves for the moment) inhabiting the world and fitting into different social roles depending on their previous races actions and skills. In this world the elves are intelligent and agile fighters, orcs on the other hand are brutish, but also exceptional in scent and other skills, while humans are middle of the road creatures too caught up in their own problems to care about others so to speak.
In this world, human Daryl Ward is partnered up with an Orc named Nick Jakoby in order to further improve human-orc relations, with Jakoby being the first orc on the L.A. police force. His inclusion into the squad hasn't gone down well with the rest of the L.A.P.D. force, with them all having their sights of discrediting him at every turn. Ward who is neutral on the human-orc matter doesn't want to be apart of any of it and has to pay the consequences for everyone else's actions and feelings. At some point in the film he will have to make the choice of whose side he is on and be a greater player in the social struggle between the races. All this while at the same time him and Jakoby get caught up in a dark elf cult, who set their sights at world domination through an ancient evil force.
In the film, we have a lot of big stars and effects showing that Netflix did go out of their way to make this the first real studio level blockbuster they've made. Which figures as these movie stars who are used to the big money deals and spotlights have to settle for less in terms of publicity and they aren't going to do it for a small paycheck or for films that feel TV movie like. Will Smith in similar fashion to Adam Sandler has gotten a special deal from Netflix in order to do these films and honestly besides the money there is no great reason to go down this road for the time being in my opinion. As furthering one's career through Netflix is yet to be proven if not through a TV show and till now we haven't seen many take notice that these films are Netflix productions or are just films that happen to be on Netflix. Its going to be a long and tenuous process before we know if this investment from Netflix was worth it and if actors should give up on the big cinema dream for the small screen of mobile entertainment where not even the Cannes film festival will be willing to screen their films.
Which leads us to the question which we have been plagued with for the last 20-30 years in regards to TV in relation to movies. Which was if they should be held to the same standards and usually the answer to this was always no, due to the budget, star power and quality of production. Nowadays this question has shifted to where do you get more meaningful productions of a diverse nature, which we all know this has shifted more and more towards Television, naturally also for general audience content (not getting mixed up with sub-genres or cult styled films). Furthermore, because films have had the divide between blockbuster cinema and independent production grow exponentially in terms of not only budget, but content. The TV landscape has absorbed a lot of the content that was lost, but now TV studios/streaming services are getting overconfident and wants some of that blockbuster money also and 'Bright' is the first one to go close to the heights of having one of those movie and with a budget at around 90 million. The issue is that despite that level of money spent it still is a cliched film that you cut it some slack due to the fact its a part of Netflix and that isn't a compliment as you will come to find out through this review or watching the film itself or any kind entertainment for that matter on Netflix.
The film is written by Max Landis who has some talent as a writer and did write and create an interesting world with a lot of inspiration drawn from 'LOTR' and other fantasy media. The setup is great for future films, but its never enough to just have that. As with the interesting world and characters that he’s created there isn't as much to go on with its main characters, who take us on this journey of a world that will never come to be and that supposedly has parables to life in our own world. It ends up being quite simplistic in its portrayal of both the main human and orc character and instead of getting drawn in and surprised by the world we aren't surprised by anything. As Max Landis had to use the usual cliches of these sort of films in order to make things easy and draw in the crowds, with such things as the prophecy the chosen one and mystical weapons of sorts can only be used by certain individuals and at conventionally suited times during the film. What could have made things more interesting is if there was much more detail with how this world functioned and the lore that exists to help created it. As these things are occasionally brought up in the film and they mean nothing to you as they are partially layed out and without much background detail and you just have to accept them to move along with the story.
As mentioned this world of orcs, humans and elves is interesting in how it tackles what would life be like in a modern day context if these races had to coexist. Showing that there would always be good and bad people from all sides and that at some point the history and religions of old would be forgotten and some would want to cling on to them and bring back the ways of old. Which is actually interesting when the characters start bringing up certain parts of the internal lore, but this happens seldomly as mentioned and also the mystical nature of the elf terrorist group is never fully explored and who the Darklord they follow is. This is all of course on purpose for a sequel, but not great as it doesn't make us further interested in the universe from the first film (unlike LOTR). This is why if this film was a feature film and released on the big screen we would be crying foul that we had been duped yet again by another crummy Hollywood blockbuster, but because this is on Netflix it suddenly becomes passable.
It's convenient that we live in a day and age where things are so affordable that we have at times thousands of choices to choose from, but due to this many things have lost value and we have forgotten of their original purpose and experience. As we no longer make the effort to get out of our comfort zone and explore the unknown and pay the premium needed to experience possible greatness even though it might turn out to be also potential crap. With that in mind many potentially great films that are released on Netflix will be forgotten of and mediocre films such as 'Bright' will be padded on the back and told that will do.