Thursday, December 7, 2023
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Bright Review

Masquerading a heavyweight political theme as a fantasy is a fine but cowardly way of approaching a subject of interest. Expect nothing less from director David Ayer. Replacing the critical issue of the real world with neutered, generalised elements of fairies and magical creatures is not the right foot to put forward when attempting discourse on racial segregation and the clear problems it causes. Prophecies and heroes of days gone by make themselves known rather instantly. With such obvious, offensively bland comparisons to that of real events, Bright can do nothing but wear its thinly veiled message on its sleeve, hoping for an audience to latch onto it before their interest wanes. That desire to capture the mind of an average movie streamer is found here, where the iconography and opening setting scream of vague political imagery that, had it been left well alone, would still be a cultural shock, rather than poor ideas of adaptation for this vehement Netflix original. Welcome to Elftown, I suppose. 

Many of the problems come from the direction. Ayer, especially in recent years, has been the useless voice of action in Hollywood. Single-handedly keeping that genre of forgettable action flicks with formerly bright stars alive, it is unfortunate to see that Bright was not the start of such a horrific trend. Ayer has peddled shlock of this variety for years before, but Bright feels, to some degree, the most politically charged of his recent works. Why it feels the need, as a product, to filter through such a message with very little variety, is beyond the realm of comprehension. Should it surprise anyone that this script comes from the filtered, failing mind of Max Landis? It should not. If it does, then more fool you. Feeling more like crumpled notes stapled to a page than anything resembling a first draft, the fantasy elements throughout are incorporated with a stiffened, almost scornful approach. Classism and racial bias are thrown together with an uncaring hand, gritty streets and modern pop crashing into one another for no other reason than to tap into the contemporary meaning and messages of this stumbling, disinterested narrative. 

If it were not for Will Smith at the lead of this, Bright would be unforgivable. He grapples well with what little is offered to him in both script and style, he even comes across as enjoyable at times, but those moments are rare. He ties the obvious pangs of a politically incentivised narrative to that usual charm he brings in times of stress and action. He does so well he makes Joel Edgerton look almost good. Still, Daryl Ward (Smith) and Nick Jakoby (Edgerton) are not the Riggs and Murtaugh of our generation, but it never feels like they have the narrative complexity to bring such ideas to the table anyway. They are at least competent enough to not bore a hole through the brain of their audience, which is more than can be said for the unfortunate stragglers found in the supporting cast. Bogged down while having to pool a whole new, unique land of fantasy, Bright is unable to get to grips with its own narrative, a product that feels equally ambitious and amateurish.  

Bright is the opposite of what its title may infer. It is not an original concept, nor does it engage with its few strands of tolerable narrative choices. Rapidly fleeting they may be, it would salvage much more than Ayer could hope for if he could cling to one point and do his best to make it work. Instead, a mash-up of all the usual Netflix contradictions are helmed by Smith and Edgerton in a film that fails to grip the grit or guts of its narrative. Especially now, when the political spectrum has sprung to life with more of a resurgence than ever before, Bright comes across as a weak cash-in on issues it neither understands or cares for.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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