Bright is not a good movie.
It’s ugly, boring, and feels like a spiritual successor to David Ayer’s last film, Suicide Squad, with maybe 50% of the previous film’s cringe-inducing edginess. Things happen in the movie, but it all feels so detached from itself that an hour in I was wondering when something was going to actually happen. This was during a major action scene.
Predictably, it’s been a massive success for Netflix, so much so that a sequel has already been greenlit. Today, I wanted to talk about it a little.
Since its late-December release, Bright has become the new poster-child for a subsection of internet movie discussion that loves to proclaim how wrong movie critics are. This type of discussion has been amplified with the popularity of Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregate, which allows everyone to see every “important” critic’s thoughts condensed into what basically amounts to a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” icon. There has been a lot of discussion within the film industry about whether or not this leads directly to bad ticket sales. It probably doesn’t, but I think that this kind of website kills movie discussion as a whole. No longer do you have to actually read a reviewer’s nuanced thoughts on a film, you simply see a visual icon that tells you that all critics said “GOOD” or “BAD” in unison with one voice. Context is removed, as well as carefully constructed points that back up a person’s opinion on a piece, which makes it very easy to dismiss a movie’s bad reviews as wrong.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen the following statement online: “Man, why did [X] get such bad reviews? I can’t understand! This was a really fun movie!” Sure, this statement has probably always existed, but again, it’s been amplified because all many people look at is a movie’s Rotten Tomatoes score. It’s a statement that always comes from someone who never took the time to actually read any conflicting view of the film, and simply saw a meter that told them “BAD” which, since they enjoyed it, is a wrong opinion.
So that’s when the excuses start.
“This is a fun movie!” “You have to turn your brain off!” “Can’t critics understand that we want to watch dumb movies that are fun sometimes and not masterpieces (because the market was awash last year in layered, theme-driven masterpieces)?” And, the new one with Bright, “The lore/world building was great!”
Bright is an urban fantasy cop movie, which is an interesting idea. I could understand that someone might enjoy the world, if it was a well-detailed work. Except it isn’t. Bright’s lore is extremely confusing.
Somewhere down the line of pre-production, somebody had the Bright idea (HAHAHAHA I’M CLEVER) to use the orcs in this movie as allegory for marginalized black communities within South Central Los Angeles. That would be okay, I guess, except marginalized black communities still exist within this version of South Central Los Angeles. An entirely new race of beings is being used…as allegory for a problem that still exists within the context of this world. It makes very, very little sense, and is one of the major themes of the movie.
Then we have the fact that the world itself is exactly the same as our world except that there are fantasy characters. Their history, aside from one incident, sounds pretty much exactly the same as history without fantasy creatures, since one of the characters says, “People still blame Mexicans for the Alamo.” Sure, they hint that elves run the glamorous parts of the city and culture, but the societal structure and history of humans is exactly the same as our world, which doesn’t mesh with the idea of a world that has a whole bunch of fantasy creatures and humans interacting for thousands of years. It’s a half-baked attempt to create an urban fantasy world, where it doesn’t seem like anything was fully thought fully through on many different levels. The movie basically feels like the filmmakers said, “Hey, a cop movie in an urban fantasy setting is a good idea,” and did nothing else with it. Hell, Reign of Fire, a movie about dragons returning to the modern world, has clearer thought out world building, and that’s a terrible movie.
Now, it’s still okay to like the movie. Totally. People like Suicide Squad, for reasons that are…strange to me, but they are reasons. However, attempting to justify your opinion by saying that a review aggregate website is wrong is not a great idea. Is Bright really the hill you wanna die on? Do you want to be like one of the crazy people who were proclaiming that Batman v Superman was the next The Shining? We all watch movies for different reasons, and the internet mixed with videogames have spawned a group of people who like consuming media for a world instead of a story. Little details that build lore like some kind of puzzle box are far more important than character details to these people, and it’s a perfectly valid way to consume media. Although my own recommendation would be to look elsewhere for a modern fantasy world you can dig into, since this one is poorly thought out and leaves much to be desired.
This article was written by Samuel Becker: writer for hire, Tek5 Filmscore Critic, and general hypocrite.