Bright Early Reviews: Netflix’s First Blockbuster Is A Fairy Tale Mess

Bright (2017) - Joel Edgerton and Will Smith

The first reviews have arrived for Netflix’s big-budget action fantasy Bright. Bright is Netflix’s first attempt at a bona fide blockbuster title, and is set in a world where orcs, fairies, dragons and other mystical creatures exist side by side with the human race. Will Smith plays a veteran cop who’s partnered with Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), the first Orc to join the police department.

Bright is a unique tonal mash-up between fantasy blockbuster and a gritty buddy cop movie and is definitely an interesting gamble on Netflix’s part. The company has spent $90 million on Bright's production, and in addition to big names like Smith and Edgerton in the cast, they recruited David Ayer (Suicide Squad) to direct from a script by Max Landis.

Related: Here’s The Final Trailer For Bright

Now the reviews are in for Bright, and it appears many outlets found the film to be something of a mess. Praise is focused on the chemistry between Smith and Edgerton, the action setpieces and the amount of world-building, but many found issues with the script, the underdeveloped villains and the rushed pacing. For more thoughts on the film read the following excerpts below, with corresponding links to the full reviews.

Collider – Vinnie Mancuso

In the end, it’s probably a blessing for Bright that it ended up on Netflix, where it can sit in a queue for as long as the audience wants. It’s the opposite of must-see. It’s a collection of admittedly impressive action sequences (like, $90 million impressive) trying to be so much more. Barring a certain Centaur Cop spin-off, Bright mostly deserves to be dimmed.

Vulture – Emily Yoshida

Dungeons and Dragons–style fantasy, with its species-specific stats and attributes, is a pretty suspect well to draw from if you’re trying to pull off some kind of modern-day race relations metaphor. It’s most typically used as a kind of blurring device, a way to talk about inequality and injustice in a non-specific, inoffensive way, with the built-in disclaimer that it’s all pretend anyway. (Think of any Star Trek episode where the Enterprise encounters a planet embroiled in an interspecies conflict.) I’m not entirely sure what real counterpoint orcs and elves could contribute to the extremely real history of racially charged police violence in Los Angeles, besides the fact that it’s kind of cool in a three-bong-hits-in way. I can’t exactly argue with that — I’m a sucker for “real-life current-day location + demons and/or magic” — but I also don’t think Bright has anything more coherent to say about the state of the world than, say The Hobbit.

Will Smith in Netflix original movie Bright

IGN – David Griffith

Bright could have been something truly special if it had slowed down the pace of its narrative to allow for a fuller exploration of its engaging world. Will Smith and Joel Edgerton are a compelling duo I’d love to see again in a sequel, or even a new series produced by Netflix, so hopefully, this isn’t the last we’ll see of the world of Bright.

Vanity Fair – Jordan Hoffman

While I had the misfortune to see Bright in a theater, most people will simply press “play” out of curiosity on their Roku remote. I am willing to concede that this might elevate the experience a little; the ability to take a quick trip to the kitchen or restroom after shouting “no, don’t pause it” to your partner on the couch will be liberating. Of course, you could also do a quick search and see if the vastly superior Vin Diesel vehicle The Last Witch Hunter is streaming—and watch that instead.

Variety – Peter Debruge

These confrontations are not for the faint-hearted, as Ayer mixes heavy weaponry with the occasional magic trick, showing a ruthless disregard for basic rights, be they human, Orc or otherwise. “Fairy lives don’t matter today,” Smith cracks in an early creature-exterminating scene, but the sentiment could just as easily apply to all races. “Bright” may seem cavalier about all that killing, but it sends a message without hammering it home at every turn. And at a relatively tight (by Netflix standards) 117-minute running time, it doesn’t overstay its welcome, but leaves you wanting more.

IndieWire – David Ehrlich

The real problem with “Bright” — or the realest of its problems, anyway — is that the movie’s damage could linger for long after the lights come up (or after you’ve clicked away from it in favor of re-watching the new season of “The Crown”). Potentially a dark harbinger of things to come, “Bright” isn’t only the worst film of 2017, it could be responsible for many of the worst films of 2018 and beyond. If this gambit pays off — if Netflix fortifies their assault on the theatrical experience by internally developing blockbuster-sized movies that are even semi-consciously optimized for disinterested audiences — then it’s hard to imagine how dark the future of feature-length filmmaking might be. Here’s one indication: Shortly before the embargo on “Bright” reviews was lifted, Netflix announced that a sequel to “Bright” is already in the works.

David Ayer Teases Bright Sequel Ideas

THR – John DeFore

That's far from the only clunker in the screenplay, but Bright spends less time imagining its world than it does having people bicker in all-too-familiar ways. It's possible that this screenplay holds a record for the number of times people tell each other to "shut up," but if not, those words are spat out often enough that it's hard not to guffaw when they pop up at a moment that should be dramatic. If only the guffaws came more frequently, or gave more pleasure, Bright might be worth watching.

The Wrap – Todd Gilchrist

Worst of all, “Bright” is ugly to watch — dingy, poorly staged, taking place mostly at night and in torrential rain for no seeming reason than to cover up how badly its action is shot and edited. Every moment is either too long or not long enough, and even basic spatial and logistical geography makes no sense. The characters fight “Warriors”-style across the city, somehow getting in and out of one locked room, packed club or secret alcove after another without energy or suspense.

When so much of the plot relies upon impossible coincidence, arbitrary change or pure contrivance, perhaps the title is intended to be ironic.

L.A. Times – Noel Murray

The movie's on-screen message is, "If you act like my enemy you become my enemy." But acting like an R-rated fantasy blockbuster doesn't magically transform "Bright" into "RoboCop," "Blade Runner" or any of the other adult-oriented genre classics that'd be a much better use of TV viewers' time and money.

io9 – Germain Lussier

At one moment in Bright, there’s an establishing shot of a dragon flying over Los Angeles. It’s gorgeous, exciting, and emblematic of all of the potential in the film. But it never comes back, and by the time Bright is done throwing idea after idea at you, it’s hard to remember it was ever there. And that’s the movie in a nutshell.

Will Smith Bright Netflix

While Netflix was likely hoping for a warmer reception, they’re probably not terribly worried about the more negative reviews since sheer curiosity will likely lure viewers to Bright. The film was always intended to set itself apart from the competition, with Netflix selling itself as a platform where ambitious, unusual big budget movies can get made. David Ayer had a famously tricky experience with Warner Bros. during post-production on Suicide Squad, and the director has repeatedly praised Netflix for giving him a lot of creative freedom on Bright.

Of course, Netflix will be hoping Bright becomes a major franchise for them. The premise is ripe for sequels, prequels and other spinoffs, and they’ve already ordered a sequel with Smith attached to star. The movie’s success could also pave the way for more original blockbusters from the streaming giant. While Netflix is known for keeping viewing figures close to the chest, an easy way to tell if Bright was a worthwhile experiment will be to see if a sequel actually happens, or if the idea is quietly dropped.

More: Netflix Has Order Bright 2 With Will Smith

Source: Various [see the links above]

Key Release Dates
  • Bright (2017) release date: Dec 22, 2017
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