Two thousand years after the fall of the Dark Lord, America still bears the scars of the conflict. Elves are the rich and powerful elite, living in secure, gated communities in the human cities. And orcs are the underclass – distrusted and feared, stereotyped (often accurately) as brutal gang members.
Ward (Will Smith) is the cop who’s unlucky enough to get partnered with the LAPD’s newest diversity hire: Jakoby, the first orc on the Force. Together, they have to deal with racism, corruption, and the constant threat of death. Also, someone might be trying to bring the Dark Lord back.
I love the concept of Bright. Middle Earth is a world that only makes sense as long as you don’t think about it too much, and a film that promised to dig into the inconsistencies and tensions of that world was something that I was very interested in. Plus, Will Smith makes entertaining cop films.
The world’s backstory is complex, and there isn’t much time in the film to establish it. As a result, various things that I’d have liked to see more of ended up glossed over. However, what world-building there is is quick and effective, establishing the setting and its tensions rapidly without labouring the point.
The film lags in the middle somewhat, when it becomes a confusing and city-wide gunfight with limited explanation of what’s going on or why. The film doesn’t trust its own narrative to stand up to scrutiny, and so distracts with confused gun fire and action pieces. With that said, there are moments of brilliance that shine through the mediocre-to-good film, showing that there’s some complexity and originality underneath the gunfire.
Bright’s big issue is that it tries to do too much. It’s partly a light-hearted police comedy, and partly a gritty police drama and partly a trilogy of fantasy films and partly an allegory for racism and class warfare in America, all jammed into a film that’s just under two hours long. Any one of those would be enough, as a single strand, to carry the film, but instead all the different ideas run into each other and it ends up as confused mess.
Really, Bright needed more space – perhaps as a series of graphic novels, or at least a show. That would give time to get in all of the different strands and give each of them the space it deserves. Apparently there is already a sequel planned; it would be good if it developed upon some of the more glossed-over ideas.