Bright is solid storytelling

EDIT: Disclaimer — 1) I was unaware of Max Landis’ involvement in the film, and 2) the criticisms I’ve seen of how the film presents PoC are totally legit.

I watched Netflix’ Bright over the last two days, enjoyed it, and am surprised that I haven’t seen more discussion of it in my circles.

What struck me is that the film nails “Show, don’t tell”. The premise is pretty high-concept, yet there is a total absence of Hollywood’s typical, tedious voiceovers explaining why things are the way they are, or telling us what someone is feeling — and I think there’s only one bit of dialogue that veers towards “As you know, Bob…” territory.

Instead, we are simply shown the film’s world and how the inhabitants react to it. And it’s more than enough. To me, at least, it’s refreshing. E.g., the film’s MacGuffin never gets a full explanation; we see characters react to it with awe, horror, or lust — and that’s all we need to know.

The film may not be a masterpiece, but it’s solid. Will Smith and Joel Edgerton have great chemistry, things move at a brisk pace, and the action and FX are good. It gets to the chorus and does not bore us.

It also ties up everything with a neat little bow at the end, yet still leaves room for more stories — whether they focus on this film’s protagonists or others. The setting is a simple and solid conceit that I’d be happy to explore further.

So, if this has been sitting unwatched in your queue, carve out some time to watch it.

https://www.netflix.com/title/80119234

78 thoughts on “Bright is solid storytelling

  1. I totally agree. I’ve seen plenty of people here say they like it. What I find bizarre (and increasingly irrelevant) is how much critics seem to hate it. Even my usually pretty good news paper decided this week to assure their readers that, yes, this is indeed a terrible movie. 1/5. I really don’t get it. Critics seem determined to be wrong about this one. It’s not going to win any oscars, but it’s at least a 3/5. Worth it for anyone who likes the genre, but maybe not for everybody.

  2. Lex Larson Seriously. We are never told a damn thing about the Dark Lord, but based just on the graffiti and what we learn about the orcs in passing, I shuddered every time the name came up. “The Dark Lord? OH SHIT!”

  3. I’d give it a 3/5. Worst failing is world-building. There is no plausible line from LOTR’s Battle of the Five Armies to modern day Los Angeles. They should have done something more like Shadowrun – something happens and magic comes back and the human race divides up into Orcs, Elves, Centaurs and Humans. Set this story 10-20 years after the change.

  4. John Powell See, that kind of explanation is totally unnecessary for me. It’s pretty clear that this is fantasy earth, and the current story is way more important than a big history lesson.

    I think it’s also pretty clear this is not Tolkien’s world. (Also, Wikipedia says Tolkien reckoned about 6,000 years between the end of the Third Age and modern day.)

  5. There’s certainly more story that I want to see in this world. But I had no problem filling in logical blanks. It’s basically a LoTR backdrop with the names filed off. I think that did a great job of showing a world that makes sense to the characters but without having to hit viewers over the head with constant explanations of everything. The characters don’t think anything odd about a Centaur, good enough for me. That says volumes more then if they went into the whole back story of why there are centaur cops.

  6. I really wanted to see the public restrooms and the police station locker rooms and lockups that accommodated centaurs.

    Also how do they take down centaur perps? Hopefully they have multiple centaur cops to hand situations like that.

    Do centaurs have motorized transport options?

    Are centaurs allowed to use sidewalks and roads or are they strictly limited to one or the other?

    Do public businesses all have to accommodate centaur customers? Doesn’t look like any of them do from the street scenes in the movie. Maybe all the centaur access is from the alleys…

    Obviously I’m obsessed with the centaurs. ;^)

    Here’s hoping for more centaurs in the next movie.

  7. TL;DR: Bright took no risks whatsoever beyond its premise, and it barely took that one.

    So, to keep it short and sweet: One, there was no “world building”. It was basically “Oh, you know, like, Lord of the Rings? It’s like that, only in the real world”. It was as generic as could be, and thus, totally uninteresting to me. Two, the “only chosen ones can wield wands” conceit was transparent as hell, there wasn’t one person watching who didn’t know how that was going to play out, therefore, also boring. Three, the hamhanded replacement of PoC with orcs, and Will Smith phoning it in playing basically an honorary generic white guy protagonist, felt super clumsy and off putting to me.

    Sure, there was some cool imagery and some decently well struck, if predictable, notes, but overall I was really hoping for more from what should have been a super cool premise, and one of my favorite actors.

    All that said, obviously everyone’s mileage varies, and I’m not knocking anybody who enjoyed it for what it was. I will probably watch the next installment of it, in the hopes that they do branch out into something with more depth- I get that this was an experiment aimed at a general audience, so the blandness was perhaps forgivable. I hope they do better with the racial stuff. I hope we get more than a buddy cop macguffin chase with a ricepaper thin veneer of fantasy on it. But that’s how I felt about this initial go.

    And now I return you all to your lovefest 😉

  8. Dave Michalak That’s a fair analysis. My expectations weren’t overly high, and it was approximately what I expected. Cool idea, could have been better, but wasn’t terrible.

    If there’s going to be a sequel, I wonder if they’re going to create a coherent history with both the Dark Lord and the Alamo, or if they’re just going to ignore history and enjoy the now.

  9. Dave Michalak Fair enough. I’m still not sure what more world building needed to be done.

    The Orcs as PoC thing also tweaked me at first, but I got over it. I gave them credit for trying to talk about race using actual different species, and also casting the elves as basically the privileged white people. I felt like this sort of made the ethnic differences between the humans in the film totally irrelevant, which is interesting IMO.

    I dunno that the conceit was 100% foregone; I felt like it could have been either protagonist, given how they phrased things prior to the reveal.

    Honestly, my biggest problem was that the elf they were protecting was kinda a damsel/manic-pixie. That was the main disappointment for me.

  10. actual different species, and also casting the elves as basically the privileged white people. I felt like this sort of made the ethnic differences between the humans in the film totally irrelevant, which is interesting IMO. I dunno that the conceit was 100% foregone; I felt like it could have been either protagonist, given how they phrased things prior to the reveal. Honestly, my biggest problem was that the elf they were protecting was kinda a damsel/manic-pixie. That was the main disappointment for me.]]>

  11. I liked it; 3/5 is where I’d land if Netflix still had a civilized rating system. I found the humor to be totally flat and I disliked both of the protagonists a lot. Their interactions felt false and very very written to me. I also could see the big reveal coming from the first moment they brought up the topic enmeshed in it.

    I’ll watch the sequel with even more hope, especially because they’ve ditched Max Landis.
    thedailybeast.com – ‘Bright’ Screenwriter Max Landis Accused of Sexual Assault

  12. I was really uncomfortable with its thematic premise that racism happens when a group of people does something terrible and their descendants stay blamed for it. (The Dark Lord stuff + that bizarre line about the Alamo.) But it was a fun action flick.

  13. Is this the same Max Landis that made Dirk Gently? I seem to love things he makes, but if he’s an abusive creep, that would really suck. What strikes me as odd there is that Dirk Gently does not strike me at all like something that could be written by someone who treats women badly. It has some really positive messages underneath all that weirdness.

  14. I’ve liked a lot of his work. It’s an ongoing cultural discussion how to engage with the work of abusers. Everyone has to find their own answer, at least for now. Ultimately, i think the answer is going to be “burn it to the ground and start over”.

  15. I used to get a kick out of Cinema Sins, but my enjoyment eroded as I came to realize how painfully cynical it tends to be. Plus I feel it deifies bland logical coherence, denigrating emotional structure as some kind of badwrong writing. That in turn reinforces a media consumption culture that treats all stories as cog-wheel puzzle box constructs (discussion: https://www.no-cartridge.net/episode-63-desert-of-the-real-fictions-w-scott-benson).

    Hadn’t heard of Cinema Wins, I’ll have to check that out! I have enjoyed Bob Chipman’s “Really That Good” series, along those lines.
    no-cartridge.net – Episode 63: Desert of the Real Fictions w/ Scott Benson – No Cartridge

  16. Cinema Sins, but my enjoyment eroded as I came to realize how painfully cynical it tends to be. Plus I feel it deifies bland logical coherence, denigrating emotional structure as some kind of badwrong writing. That in turn reinforces a media consumption culture that treats all stories as cog-wheel puzzle box constructs (discussion: https://www.no-cartridge.net/episode-63-desert-of-the-real-fictions-w-scott-benson). Hadn’t heard of Cinema Wins, I’ll have to check that out! I have enjoyed Bob Chipman’s “Really That Good” series, along those lines. no-cartridge.net – Episode 63: Desert of the Real Fictions w/ Scott Benson – No Cartridge]]>

  17. I’m already cynical, plus I don’t seem to have a problem taking CS as the humor it’s intended to be. Everyone’s mileage will necessarily vary on that sort of thing. I don’t think CS has stopped me from seeing any movies I wanted to see.

    CW on the other hand has gotten me to watch movies, or watch movies again with a fresh eye, that I might have otherwise dismissed. It’s definitely the more positive minded show, for those who prefer that.