Bright (2017) Netflix Original Review

The Netflix Original movie Bright, Netflix’s first $90 million movie, featuring human cop Daryl Ward (Will Smith) stuck with the sometimes bumbling, largely hated first Orc police officer in the nation, Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), follows the story of what happens when Ward and Jakoby respond to a call where they find a thief with a powerful wand and magic they know almost nothing about.

This is a review of the movie Bright, not simply a recommendation, so if you’ve made it to this point without having seen the movie, turn back now. Many spoilers ahead.

Daryl Ward wakes up after another nightmare about when his police officer partner Nick Jackoby was buying a burrito, when Ward gets shot by an Orc criminal. It’s a bit uncertain whether this was a dream relaying his anxiety about an Orc partner or whether this was something that really happened, and personally, I wondered a little bit if it was a Sixth Sense-thing and Ward was already dead. This does get smoothed out specificallysoon after, so I actually really like that as an opening. Next, Ward sees his wife and they have some exposition about how she worries about him with his partner, Jakoby, saying he’s going to get her husband killed. Ward also speaks to his daughter, and it becomes clear that he is sending his daughter to stay with her grandmother for a while. Ward also goes outside to deal with a fairy that’s attacking the bird feeder again. His wife says to kill the fairy, so it’s really difficult to understand which mythical creatures are treated as sentient (disliked or not, clearly Orcs are “people”) and which fall into the category of pesky animals (it feels like Ward is essentially battling a wasp infestation the way he and his wife interact about it).

Jakoby arrives at Ward’s house to pick him up for his first day back at work, making it clear that the earlier dream did happen and that Ward lived through being shot. They have some witty banter that makes Jakoby seem bumbling but sweet and Ward seem more or less like an asshole but with a tiny ray of hope of redeeming qualities. They get to work and it’s clear that Jakoby is treated terribly and that Ward would like to feel less angry about having the Orc as his partner, even standing up a little bit for him, but ultimately, doesn’t want to ride with Jakoby and makes it clear to his superiors and to Jakoby. Poor Jakoby. I already want to hug him. They head out and we get to see what Los Angeles looks like in this world, where mythical creatures have been around for thousands of years living alongside humans. Los Angeles still looks rather like Los Angeles, but the power and the poor areas include some different faces. Elves are snobby and rich, Orcs appear to be equal to the gangster neighbor of Ward’s, and there’s a bit of discussion about Brights, who are usually elves and sometimes humans who can touch a wand with their bare hands and use the wand’s magic without getting killed by touching the wand. There’s a frightening story about how to discover if you are a Bright – to touch a wand with your bare hand… and if you’re not, you are destroyed, sometimes along with people around you. Yikes, gruesome.

They get called to a scene where there’s a crazy human man swinging a sword who gives Jakoby a prophecy and Jakoby doesn’t share it with Ward, dismissing it as a crazy man’s babbling. Ward is told separately that they believe Jakoby is lying and that Jakoby let the Orc who shot Ward get away because he’s an Orc first before he’s a cop. Ward is supposed to try to get him to confess on tape, but Ward gets annoyed by this and says he doesn’t want to be a snitch. This does make Ward even more unhappy about his partner, though he again is leaning more towards defending Jakoby than condemning him. They get called to a house where they find some dead humans and elves, and discover an elf with a wand. They quickly realize that this is more than they can handle alone, so they call for backup. The police officers, and superior officers, that arrive quickly lose their minds at the idea of the power of the wand and want Ward to go arrest Jakoby. Ward does go outside to talk to Jakoby, but he can sense that the officers are plotting to kill them all and steal the wand. Ward confronts Jakoby about the day he was shot, and Jakoby confesses that he did indeed let an Orc get away, but that he had really lost the shooter. Upon thinking he had found him again in the alley, he realized it was not the shooter, just some Orc teenager tagging the walls with spray paint. He couldn’t let the police backup appear and likely kill this Orc for shooting a human cop, so he helped him run away. Ward is relieved at being told the truth, but angry that Jakoby hadn’t simply told what really happened. The police officers under the wand’s power come outside to arrest/murder them both and Ward turns around and shoots them all, killing all but one. They then flee the scene, debating what to do next, with Tikka (Lucy Fry), the elf they found, who continues to beg them to protect her and the wand.

Outside of their knowledge, both the FBI and Leila (Noomi Rapace) and her elvish group are trying to track down and take the wand. The wand belongs to Leila, and Tikka lets Ward and Jakoby know that she took it to stop Leila from bringing back the Dark Lord. The next few scenes are essentially Ward and Jakoby trying to get control of the situation, keep the wand away from humans, orcs, and elves alike, and frequently running into trouble. Jakoby’s rapport with Tikka grows quickly. The more she sees that the two cops are still helping to protect her and the wand, the more she explains. She says that Leila is trying to bring back the Dark Lord and that she couldn’t let her do it. They are Inferi, which Tikka admits to being one of as well. When Orcs capture the three of them, they command a young unblooded Orc among them to do the act and earn his place among the Orcs. The young Orc comes forward to shoot Jakoby, but confesses that he cannot. He is actually the Orc that Jakoby let go after Ward was shot. His father tells him to leave and shoots Jakoby himself instead. As Jackoby falls, Tikka rushes to the wand and casts a spell that revives him within moments of the gunshot. The Orcs see Jakoby as fulfilling a Prophecy among the Orc’s mythos and bow down as Ward, Tikka, and Jakoby leave. Tikka’s spell has left her very weak, and she admits that she is a very young Bright and she doesn’t know very many words. She is so weak that she is unable to help further, and asks them to bring her home, where she can be revived.

After some arguing, they do indeed bring her back to the original building where they found her. This is where Leila and her followers are waiting. Leila is performing her own ritual to speak to the Dark Lord at the tree roots and the water that Tikka needs to be in for recovery. There are fights and Tikka is about to be overpowered by Leila, who refuses to die via gunshots, when Ward gets desperate and reaches to grab the wand. Leila says he will die if he touches it, but Ward says if he dies touching it, those around him will also, including Leila. He tells Jakoby, “We’re in a prophecy, right?” when Jackoby protests. But when Ward grabs the wand, he is not destroyed. Instead, the wand seems to respond to him. Tikka shouts the words he’ll need and Ward says them. Leila is flung back and essentially explodes while Tikka also vanishes, seemingly like she has been destroyed in the same manner. The whole building begins to be engulfed in flames. Ward is panicking, searching for Tikka, because he did not want to hurt her, but Jakoby says it’s okay because he did what Tikka said to do. Jakoby has to convince and practically drag Ward outside. When Jakoby manages to get outside, he realizes that Ward is no longer behind him, so he returns inside the building, even though the police, FBI, and firefighters who have now begun arriving on scene try to stop him. Jakoby desperately searches for Ward, finding him where there is a lot of fire and obstacles, and uses brute strength to free him and bring him outside.

Outside, Ward tells Jakoby to check out the other Orcs nearby, the ones who had originally shot him. They do a little ritual and claim Jakoby as a blooded Orc now. Jakoby is thrilled, but since both he and Ward are exhausted, neither manages to do more than collapse and allow the firefighters to help them. Ward suggests they should have both been firefighters, an excellently timed moment of comedy. Ward wakes up to Jakoby next to his bedside and his wrist cuffed to the bed. Jakoby says they’re more concerned about Ward than about him, and then they are questioned by an elf FBI agent. Before he can ask any questions, though, Jakoby starts babbling and giving away all the details and Ward tries to get him to stop talking and let them answer questions first. Finally, Ward says there was no wand and no magic and gets Jakoby to agree with this lie. They are then let go and honored by the city.

The ending leaves the movie open to a sequel, as very little about what happened to Tikka, the FBI agents who had been tracking them, or what happened to the wand is actually addressed.

Overall the movie is really fun, with a sort of District 9 feel to it. It moves fast and feels like we’ve just begun to get immersed into the world when the movie is over, so I’m hoping there’s another movie to come. Obviously, getting Will Smith to do a series would have been more difficult than to get him to do a single movie, but I’m hoping that Netflix’s power is growing so well that this won’t stop them from making a sequel or two or even ten. I really had that much fun. I’d like to see more about the Elves, who are mostly given a villainous light, but hardly given much substance. Leila, the evil elf that was destroyed, was played by a great actress, who also stars in What Happened to Monday, another Netflix original that I thought was fantastic. She’s clearly good at stunt work, or works well at letting a stunt double do the work, I’m not sure, but she had long, physical scenes in both movies.

I think that Will Smith’s kind of comedy could have been played up a little more in this movie, the type where he’s being funny opposite lots of action, but overall, Will Smith’s acting was very good in this movie. Joel Edgerton, who I’m unfamiliar with, really steals the movie, since no matter how the movie follows Ward and focuses more on his point of view, ultimately Ward’s character is only interesting because of Jakoby’s presence. Edgerton had tons of makeup on to appear as an Orc (obviously), but he was very expressive anyway. Netflix has a good original here with potential for more.

Overall, I’d give it a 9/10. It’s really good and will bring you joy just in time for the holidays. Don’t be turned off that it’s “just a 9.” I don’t rate with decimal points and 10 is reserved for best-movie-of-all-time level stuff like the original Star Wars movies. While I think a bit of the writing could have been improved on, so that we could more rapidly follow this alternate world, I also believe that it was done on purpose in order to leave room for more in the future. Where’s the book? I’d love to read it. In googling whether this came from a book, I’ve actually just discovered that Netflix already ordered a sequel for Bright, including Will Smith. See? Good ideas abound at Netflix. With that in mind, I am definitely sure why the writers left this movie open to a second one. I’m glad, because the ending would otherwise be a little lacking. Knowing there’s more to come makes it even better.

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  • I don’t review things, but 9/10 feels a bit strong. I enjoyed the film though, and I’d watch another.