Will Smith, who has appeared in numerous sci-fi and fantasy action flicks (Independence Day, I Am Legend, Men in Black, After Earth, Suicide Squad) is back in Netflix’s flick Bright. In the film, he plays a human LAPD police officer named Daryl Ward on a mission to protect a magical weapon from corrupt and evil forces in downtown Los Angeles. Starring alongside Smith is Joel Edgerton as Nick Jakoby, Ward’s partner, and an Orc. The film is directed by David Ayer. This article is a review of the film.

Synopsis (Warning: Many Spoilers)

Ward and Jakoby aren’t the best of partners. In fact, Ward despises Jakoby, just like many other people in an Earth populated by humans and mythical creatures (which the film refers to as races). But a call from a safe house in downtown LA compels them to work as a team.

The said safe house turns out to be owned by the Shield of Light, a militant group aiding the return of the Dark Lord. They discover dead bodies and the bloody body of an elf female embedded on the wall in a Shield of Light safe house. They also find an elf named Tikka (Lucy Fry), alive and hiding. Tikka is a member of the Shield of Light and an Inferni or rogue elf. She is also a Bright, a creature capable of controlling magic using a wand. Non-Brights die upon touching the wand. Tikka is currently being hunted by her sister Leilah (Noomi Rapace), an Inferni, Bright and disciple of the Dark Lord, as she is in possession of Leilah’s magic wand.

As they prepare to bring Tikka to the police station, Ward, Jakoby, and Tikka get into trouble with corrupt police officers and with the local gang Altamira, who are both after the magic wand. They escape and end up in a strip club where they are again confronted by the Altamira. Leilah and her fellow Inferni storm the bar, and kill the Altamira. Ward, Jakoby and Tikka escape. Eventually, the Fogteeth Orc leader Dorghu (Brad William Henke) learns about the wand and drags them into his lair. Dorghu kills Jakoby. Tikka brings out the wand and uses magic to bring Jakoby back to life. Dorghu, who is left in awe, allows the trio to exit the church. Tikka finally speaks to Ward and Jakoby in English, stating that they have earned her trust and reveals the Inferni’s plans to bring back the Dark Lord. She appeals to them to bring her back to the safehouse where she can submerge herself in a magical pool. Upon their return to the safehouse, Leilah attacks them, forcing Ward to use the magic wand to fight her and save the dying Tikka. Ward, surprisingly, does not explode and ends up killing Leilah. Jakoby becomes a blooded Orc. The film ends with Ward and Jakoby receiving recognition, with Tikka quietly watching and acknowledging Ward’s newly-found Bright status.

Review

Bright is a film that uses J.R.R.Tolkien’s characters from the Lord of the Rings Trilogy in a reverse way to show us the world that we live in today. While Tolkien’s elves were beautiful and enlightened creatures, Ayers portrayed them as apathetic at best, and evil and power-hungry at worst. Ayers’ Orcs are multi-dimensional compared to Tolkien’s soulless depictions, with Jakoby representing the good-hearted among them.  However, they are still largely ostracized due to events that occurred 2000 years ago. The magic wand replaces the Ring.

What I like about Bright is that it’s brave enough to explore the problems of racial bias and power politics in the film, albeit using Hollywood tropes. Elves are the beautiful villains, while humans and Orcs are the multidimensional and broken creatures who end up being heroes. Magic is the ultimate power which the powerful seek to find, regardless of the fact that it has a tendency to corrupt. These aren’t new, but work to reinforce the message that tremendous effort and will (no pun intended) are needed for power to work for the good of all. And that’s really important right now.

Will Smith is as always, a great actor and very enjoyable to watch. Edgerton had a tendency to act contrived and could have done so much better to a character in need of redemption. Everyone else provided good acting.

The rough and gritty cinematography was just right for the story and helped in making mythical creatures look, well, natural. My main technical problem is its lighting. The film was too dark, hence some scenes were too difficult to watch. The musical score sounded too mediocre for a film with ideas so big and grand.

Netflix premiered last 22 December 2017 and is still available on Netflix.

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