5:42pm PT by Meena Jang, Katie Kilkenny
'Bright': What the Critics Are Saying
Following last year's critically panned Suicide Squad, early reviews suggest director David Ayer's next venture, Bright, may be another misstep — though some critics have praised it for having an original premise.
The fantasy-crime film, a Netflix original, follows a police officer (Will Smith) and his orc partner (Joel Edgerton) as they fend off enemies in the streets of a mystical world where humans exist alongside elves, fairies and other mythical creatures.
The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore calls the pricey genre hybrid "plenty embarrassing" with little payoff for Netflix. "Stars Will Smith and Joel Edgerton play it mostly straight here, doing their part to sell the dopey premise, but the screenplay offers viewers little reward for our own suspension of disbelief," he writes. "The supernatural elements are so poorly explained and implemented they make us wish we were watching some generic reality-based policier instead."
DeFore takes issue with the screenplay from Max Landis, claiming it "spends less time imagining its world than it does having people bicker in all-too-familiar ways."
Vanity Fair's Jordan Hoffman was also disappointed in the film, writing that there is "a whiff of an interesting idea in there" but that it's subsumed by "tedious scenes lacking clear direction, endless generic (and poorly lit) shoot-outs, and cringeworthy sequences of allegedly witty banter." Hoffman says the $90 million film will ultimately reflect poorly on distributor Netflix, which is releasing it in theaters and on its online platform.
IndieWire's David Ehrlich pegs Bright as "the worst movie of 2017" in his review, which describes the pic as "so profoundly awful that Republicans will probably try to pass it into law over Christmas break."
Writes Ehrlich: "From the director of Suicide Squad and the writer of Victor Frankenstein comes a fresh slice of hell that somehow represents new lows for them both — a dull and painfully derivative ordeal that that often feels like it was made just to put those earlier misfires into perspective. The only thing more predictable than this high-concept police story is the idea that a year as punishing as 2017 would save the worst for last."
Fortune's Scott Mendelson calls Ayer's latest "a giant Christmas/Hanukah gift from Netflix to the major studios" because it showed the streamer failing in its attempts to replicate the expensive blockbuster format. He particularly takes aim at the film's screenplay, which he writes "feels like an undeveloped first draft." One bright spot in the movie, according to Mendelson, is Smith and Edgerton's performances, particularly the latter's: "He has an engaging arc, even if it (like frankly much of the movie) feels riffed from Zootopia."
Emily Yoshida of Vulture, meanwhile, offers a mixed appraisal, noting that Bright has some "legitimately fun touches," such as the look of the elf characters (they "look like they've had work done") and the location of the Illuminati hideout ("a believably drab L.A. apartment complex"). Overall, however, she concludes that the film's allegory for race relations — discrimination against fairies in a fantasy realm — is pretty "suspect."
"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," Yoshida writes.
The Guardian's Steve Rose was the most positive of the bunch, arguing the pic "deserves credit" for its take on a mashup of genres and commends the film's "truly original premise." The plot's "grand ambitions" are in need of fine-tuning, notes Rose, but overall, "For all its flaws, Bright is still a headlong leap into a bracingly different new world. Cinema could do with more of that."