Will Smith used to be the king of the blockbuster, but in recent years his reputation as a sure-thing has taken a hit. Smith will try again with a new action movie coming out in 2017, but this one is unusual in more ways than one. First of all, it’s produced by Netflix. Second of all, it combines a pair of genres that normally have nothing to do with one another: Tolkienesque fantasy and gritty buddy cop action.
Sprung from the genre-mashing mind of writer Max Landis, Bright is described as Training Day meets Lord of the Rings. The movie stars Will Smith as a hard-nosed cop in a topsy-turvy Los Angeles where human beings walk side-by-side with orcs, elves and other creatures normally not glimpsed outside the pages of a fantasy novel. Smith teams with a rookie orc cop played by Joel Edgerton, on a mission to protect a magical weapon described as “an artifact of the Dark Lord’s war against humanity.”
A teaser trailer for Bright aired during the Oscars (getting somewhat overshadowed by the much-publicized Best Picture Oscar mixup), and now EW has shared a series of images that give us a better look at Will Smith and Joel Edgerton’s characters. Smith plays the human cop Ward while Edgerton plays the orc cop Jakoby, described as “the Jackie Robinson of orcs.” The images see our two main characters brandishing weapons, first separately, then together: a nice summary of the movie’s traditional buddy cop arc, which features Smith and Edgerton learning to trust each other while trying to save the world.
Bright re-teams Will Smith with Suicide Squad director David Ayer, a guy who happens to also know his way around a gritty cop narrative, as his film End of Watch proves. Though Smith has not been quite the box office juggernaut in recent years that he was when he was churning out smash hits like Men in Black and Independence Day, he did have a big success in 2016 with the Oscar-winning Suicide Squad, so it’s natural that he would want to re-team with Ayer. Noomi Rapace, Lucy Fry and Edgar Martinez join Smith and Edgerton in orc-filled L.A.
As Smith revealed to EW, Bright is not just a wild genre-mashing action movie, it also has some social overtones (not unlike the cult movie and TV series Alien Nation):
“There’s a great scene where we’re sitting in the car, and the other police officers are beating up an orc. My character asks [Edgerton’s] the question, ‘Are you a cop first or an orc first? You need to decide.’ Juxtaposed against the imagery of him watching this orc being beaten by the police, I thought it was really cool.”
The script for Bright is by Max Landis, the guy who brought us the found-footage super hero movie Chronicle, the espionage action-comedy American Ultra and the action/horror flick Victor Frankenstein. Landis is nothing if not creative in the way he combines elements, and by the sound of it he’s constructed a pretty bizarre and interesting mash-up of genres in Bright. We’ll see if this one helps Will Smith get back some of his mojo, or if End of Watch plus Lord of the Rings by way of Alien Nation turns out to be a little too weird for audiences. Netflix reportedly spent $90 million on this one, so they’re betting big that Smith can draw some eyeballs when the movie comes out in December.