Max Landis' urban fantasy Bright is an appreciable, rough-around-the-edges popcorn flick. That it's showing up on people's Best Movies of 2017 lists reveals more about Hollywood's--Bright was produced by Netflix--inability to tell an entertaining story than it says about the movie's quality.

Before we get to my review, here are two pictures that readers of this blog will want to see juxtaposed:

The Last Jedi - Rotten Tomatoes
Bright - Rotten Tomatoes

Other than pointing out, once again, that The Last Jedi was a con game, there's not much to say about those images. TLJ's makers and media water-carriers are openly bragging about it being a piece of cultural Marxist propaganda. Most film critics already fall into the water-carrier category. Disney currently has the money and the muscle to whip the few dissenters into line.

The movie they're fawning over was created as a triumphalist hate letter to its own core audience. The divergence in TLJ's critic and fan scores is a mystery only to people who find either John Oliver or Ben Shapiro edgy.

Bright is being hailed in some quarters as a sort of anti-Last Jedi. Audiences liked it about as much as critics liked TLJ, but critics loathed Bright far more than fans disliked SJW Wars.

Why the disparity? 1) Netflix has neither the resources nor the inclination to buy/threaten critics like Disney does. 2) Landis had the gall to transgress the Hollywood pieties by writing a race allegory while white and male. No matter that he substituted fantasy creatures for real-life ethnic groups and took care to make the cast of human characters extra diverse. There's no pleasing utopian cultists. It certainly can't help that 3) the writer is about to get #MeToo-ed out of a career.

With the preliminaries out of the way, on to the review!

I'll try to keep this spoiler-free.

Bright follows from the premise: "What if The Lord of the Rings actually happened?" It's present-day in this alternate universe where orcs make up an oppressed underclass, the Eldar reap the fruits of elf privilege, and a small segment of the population can wield magic.

Will Smith plays a veteran LAPD officer who's been partnered with the first-ever orc policeman. I can't recall Smith's character's name, but I think the orc's surname is Polish. Smith is opposed to this arrangement and faces pressure from co-workers and superiors alike to jettison orc-cop by fair means or foul. He's working up to it when a random call thrusts an elf girl and a magic wand into Smith and his partner's custody.

NB: In the world of Bright, being a magic user is akin to having a suitcase nuke. Wands are necessary to cast spells, and only the aforementioned fraction of the populace--called Brights--can touch wands without disintegrating.

Well-photographed and choreographed hi-jinks ensue.

What I liked about Bright:
  • Looks slick. Minimal shaky cam. Workmanlike effects.
  • Taking a page from Del Toro, faeries are rats with wings.
  • Some genuinely funny character-based humor.
  • The stakes are known, and high, reasonably early in the film.
  • More creative than Hollywood movies are allowed to be these days.

What I disliked about Bright:
  • Obligatory PC lecture from gratingly precocious, token post-racial child. Clearly included to spare Landis from the hatemob. Failed.
  • The script needed another draft. Hobbled by plot holes you could fly a star destroyer through. Numerous Chekhov's guns hung prominently on the mantel but never fired. The Internal Affairs subplot was unnecessary and had no effect on the rest of the movie.
  • The magic system gets points for originality, but in this world magic is effectively omnipotent. To invoke Brandon Sanderson, what magic can do is always less interesting than what it can't do.
  • Choppy editing: Suffered from "and then" syndrome. Instead of always moving forward, the action doubled back and even went in circles on occasion. At least two scenes needed to be cut entirely.
On the whole, Bright made for an enjoyable evening's entertainment. It falls short of the magnum opus Landis is touting it as, but you can see a glimmer of the potential that a more skilled director, editor, and script doctor might have realized.

Big changes start small, and Bright is a sign that Silicon Valley will replace Hollywood as America's entertainment capital.

Such an exceptional series with some of the most unique world building I have come across.
The Ophian Rising - Brian Niemeier


  1. I agree. Bright is good, not great. The first half hour should have been trimmed (but probably wasn't because it contained the majority of the "race" material) and the script could have gone for another pass or two over, but it was fun popcorn entertainment. We don't just get popcorn entertainment much anymore. And the critics love that we don't.

    The articles, and there are many, calling it the worst movie of the year are completely tone deaf to do the atmosphere right now.

    Audiences want more material like Bright. They don't want slop like The Last Jedi.

    1. The opening was one of the scenes I had in mind for the cutting room floor. They should have started closer to the action.

  2. "a sign that Silicon Valley will replace Hollywood as America's entertainment capital."

    The question is will this be a distinction with a difference? Mostly they are infected with the same mindsets. I suspect in the long run there won't be much difference, but for now there is some effort towards differentiation.

    1. The difference will probably be one of degree, in that Big Tech is even more converged than Hollywood.

  3. Brian,
    Great review. I dissent about Silicon valley becoming the new Hollywood. They'll provide the tools for moviemakers. The new studios will be very similar to what existed in the very beginnings of movies where there were hundreds of people and microcompanies churning out movies of all kinds.
    Except that the movie''studios' will be vastly decentralized.

    1. Hollywood's demise and replacement by Big Tech is already underway. Netflix--which made Bright, Amazon, and Yahoo are already producing movies and television.

      The #MeToo scandals, and the far bigger scandals to come when the public finds out what some major producers and directors have been up to will destroy what's left of Hollywood.

      There will be an upsurge of indie film makers, but the same tech giants who will dominate blockbuster film production will also control the distribution channels. That is why alt-tech is vital.

    2. Brian.
      Excellent point. Vox said the same and Bradley's fork and replace is a sound policy.

  4. And an important addendum to this whole saga:


    Bright is the highest viewed original film in Netflix history.

  5. MegaBusterShepard here...

    Might have to check it out then. Truth be told I just use Netflix for documentaries and Clone Wars rewatching these days. Qualities been going down the last five years.

    1. I'd advise watching it via some other (legal) means than Netflix if you can.