The Great Debate: Is Bright As Bad As Everyone's Been Saying?
Article by Aaron Haughton and Anthony Cleveland
The Max Landis written, David Ayer directed film, Bright, hit Netflix this past Friday, and it was met with a litany of critical backlash, some heralding it as "the worst film of 2017." The Rotten Tomato's "Tomatometer", on the other hand, proves that it's pleasing fans with a staggering 90% (versus the critics 30%). Based off the trailer, it seemed like a promising piece of cinema — as good as one could hope from a made-for-streaming movie, that is. I mean, it has Will Smith AND Joel Edgerton in the lead slots, both of whom are good, generally well-calibrated performers. Surprising enough, Bright had us divided here at Viddy Well. As opposed to doing a review on the film, which would undoubtedly highlight mostly one side of the coin, we decided to do a friendly debate to better showcase the subjectivity of cinema.
Arguing Against — Aaron Haughton:
Bright doesn’t do anything new aside from adding the fantasy element to the clichéd buddy cop film, which ultimately falls into the same box every buddy cop film does: police corruption and conspiracy. I don’t buy the world for a second and the fantasy element isn’t used to enhance the film — it's only there to safely comment on race, which it doesn't even really do to any grand effect. The fantasy aspect only serves as a superficial divide between our characters of different background, of which we don’t really get information on until way late in the film, like the elves — we don’t find out they’re profiting off the human/orc conflict until around the third act, and it’s info that could’ve easily been tucked in as a one-off comment when our two protagonists drive through elf town in the first act. The best and only really effective use of the fantasy element was when Will Smith smashes the fairy. That’s really where the fantasy race commentary sorta ended in terms of doing anything new or interesting— and that’s 5 min into film.
It doesn’t have any real substance and doesn’t have anything to really say that wasn’t already said before. I asked myself, "what is its purpose?", and arrived on entertainment, yet I was bored through most of its entirety. It was a two hour labor, and the runtime dripped viscously like molasses. I didn’t feel any connection to the characters because they’re essentially cardboard cutouts of other cops from other films, cartoon caricatures drawn by the most elvish of men: Max Landis. The cinematography looked promising, but slowly became less filmic and more TVish as it wore on.
I went in with relatively low expectations and an open heart and still it did nothing for me. It was Netflix's stab at a blockbuster, but they bet on the wrong script and decided to imitate the lower echelon of Hollywood blockbusters, as opposed to aiming for the stars, like they did in Beast of No Nation, which is still Netflix's best and most artful production.
Bright is an unimaginative, uninspired tawdry mashing of genre and ideas that fails to deliver the goods as a hardboiled R-rated cop film or a fantasy driven sci-fi film. I'd rather watch a more realistic cop film that touches on the same notions of race and corruption, like 48 Hours, or L.A. Confidential.
Arguing For — Anthony Cleveland:
It's a big budget popcorn movie, so I wasn't expecting it to be groundbreaking or deep. I don’t want to watch a film that solely focus on race. I want to see this world explored. In 2 hours I think they barely scratched the surface. We don’t know a lot about the elves. We don’t know who the Dark Lord is, and thank the cinema gods the movie wasn’t about bringing the Dark Lord back.
The film is basically set in middle earth 8,000 years past when Frodo tossed in the ring. Lots of time has past but wounds haven’t healed. If that doesn’t interest you, then it's probably not a movie for you, but it does have an audience out there.
There’s conflict and sub-conflict throughout most of the scenes, but the exposition is the best example. It's a mix of Lethal Weapon, End of Watch and Training Day. It had homages to all of those, but felt still felt pretty new to me. It also reminded me of The Warriors and John Carpenter films, like Escape From New York or Assault on Precinct 13 because the whole city is after our protagonists and no where is safe, all because they stumbled onto something bigger. We also haven’t had a fun action cop movie in awhile.
Sure, it's may be like a few other films, but it shouldn't get points deducted just because it contains or reminds us of other films that came before it. If we're going to play that game, we all need to re-evaluate Star Wars.
I got what I wanted out of it: Will Smith doing Will Smith stuff. I didn't want it to be about resurrecting a dark lord or a biting commentary on the race divide as it relates to modern day. I liked how one call led to a huge story. I was surprised I got something that had elements of other things I love, and I'm happy with what I got.
Aaron's Rating: 0.5 smashed fairies outta 5.
Anthony's Rating: 3 money grubbing elves outta 5.
Combination Rating: 1.75 magic wands outta 5.
What do you think? Did the film work for you? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!