Monday, December 25, 2017

Bright (2017)

I’m old enough to remember a time before the Internet became popular.  People were making a big deal over a fourth broadcast network and cable, if you had it in your house, probably got 30 or 40 channels.  If you made a TV show and wanted to get it on a TV set, there was some degree of competition.  This isn’t to say that all shows were popular, but there was a good chance that your show might not make it.

Now, with 200+ cable channels, five broadcast networks, Hulu, Netflix and all other manner of options, it’s a little easier for TV shows and, by extension, movies to get made.  Netflix has had a few hits with Stranger Things and Okja.  There were bound to be a few bad movies.

Enter Bright.

Bright is set on Earth, but it’s an Earth where humans live alongside the fantasy races that everyone knows and loves.  Daryl Ward, is a human police officer working with an orc partner named Nick Jakoby.  The movie starts with Ward returning to work after recovering from a gunshot wound.  He blames Jakoby, who was busy getting a burrito.  Jakoby chased the suspect, but ultimately lost him.  Jakoby’s side of the story is suspect, but he’s still on the force.

The name of the movie comes from a group of people that can handle magic wands.  Those that aren’t Brights will die if they touch a wand.  The action begins when Ward and Jakoby find a wand and an elf to go with it.  When backup arrives, it becomes clear to Ward that the other officers don’t want Jakoby walking away from this.  Internal affairs is looking for an excuse to fire him, but a bullet would be quicker and easier.  It’s up to the two officers to find a way out of this.

My problem is that I wasn’t sure where the movie was going, and I mean this in a figurative and literal way.  Jakoby and Ward are being chased while carrying an item that acts as a beacon for its owner.  They can’t give it back and they just can’t leave it, so how are they going to get out of their predicament?

Then, there’s the underdeveloped story.  Science fiction and fantasy are often used as a way to deal with topics that you can’t deal with directly.  The movie tries to deal with racism by having orcs and elves.  This isn’t to say that there aren’t Hispanic gangs in this movie, too.  It’s just that they operate alongside an orc gang, as well.   Oh, and none of the police officers like Jakoby specifically because he’s orc.  Ward defends him, to an extent, but Ward doesn’t want him as a partner.

It kind of comes off as the pilot to a TV series.  I don’t know if Netflix is using this as a backdoor pilot for a series or if they’re looking to make other movies.  Either way, the movie could have used some more depth.  If a show is well-written, you can get the message without it being preachy.  You might not even realize what the message was until later.  If you look at Zootopia, it is somewhat obvious, but the movie tended to focus more on the story and developing the characters.

We learn very little about the various races.  We know that the races don’t get along.  Elves are seen as having money and power and a strong fashion sense.  Orcs are seen as being more athletic, although they tend to be football linebackers rather than basketball players.  (Only humans, orcs and elves are featured, although dwarves are namedropped.)  This isn’t a complex movie that hides is message under a parable.  This is a “Oh, this happened to a friend” stories.  Nobody’s kidding anyone.

This was the real travesty of the movie.  A little more time writing it and maybe filling in some details would have been nice.  I get that exposition might slow down the story, but lack of exposition weakens it.  I also don’t think that it helps the LAPD that all of the human officers are portrayed as racist to varying degrees.  (Early in the movie, Ward states that fairy lives don’t matter.)  All of the groups come off as being one-dimensional.  Some of the characters are more complex, but that’s not saying much.  Both Jakoby and Ward seem to respect each other a little more towards the end, but not by much.

I can’t say that I hate the movie, but I can’t say that I love it, either.  The makeup and effects were good at making the world seem real with maybe one or two exceptions.  However, I don’t think that the fantasy element really added much.  Sometimes, I’ll look at an element and wonder how necessary it was to the plot.  You could have removed the fantasy element without much effect on the overall plot.  I don’t even think there are many lines that would have to be rewritten, other than swapping out group names.

I may have to reserve final judgment.  I will be waiting to see if anything comes along in terms of a sequel.  If the sequel does well, Bright may have been worth it.  As it stands, I’m inclined to file it under miss rather than hit.

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