I think we can all agree that streaming services are becoming increasingly important for the film industry. We’re talking about Netflix, of course, the rental service that has, over the years, grown into a major independent player in the entertainment world. For years, Netflix’s original shows have gained the respect of viewers and critics alive. And last year, the company produced its first major league feature film by a world-class director (David Ayer), and a world-class lead actor (Will Smith). The movie is called “Bright”, and it might just have created a genre. So, get your movie-pants on and let’s dive in.

Officially, Bright is included in the “Action, Crime, Fantasy” category – it is often described as a “buddy cop drama” with a twist. But the twist is major this time and a very important one: Bright is set in an alternate modern-day Los Angeles where elves, humans, and orcs (and probably other fantasy species) live together. Of course, these are all allegorical representations of the social classes we see around us today – the elves are super-rich and beautiful, the orcs are brutish gang members, and the humans… well, they are humans with all their qualities and flaws. If it weren’t for the fantasy species, the story could’ve been happening in our universe, in our time. But…

Two millennia before the events in the film, orcs joined the wrong side in a big war against someone called “the Dark Lord”, an evil entity that used magic to enslave the entire world. He was defeated, and magic was banished from the world – but people with special abilities called “brights” are still being born, mostly among elves, and very rarely, among humans, too. To do magic, these brights need a magic wand – but the use of magic is strictly regulated by the authorities.

Viewers will join Daryl Ward (Smith) and Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton), who also happens to be the first orc on the Force (and hated by pretty much every other policeman, including Ward himself) on a usual night shift in the city. They take down a gunman and investigate the building where he holed up when they discover something big: a magic wand (and a Bright to use it, in the form of an Elven girl called Tikka, played by Lucy Fry). But the wand belongs to Leilah, an evil and powerful rogue elf who will do anything and kill anyone to get it back. Every side – humans, elves, cops, gangs, villains, and feds – want the wand, and just a few of them won’t kill for it.

Bright is one of the most controversial movies of the year. On one hand, critics have rammed it into the ground, some going as far as calling it “the worst movie of 2017”. The vast majority of those who have watched it, in turn, says that critics couldn’t be more wrong about this one (it has a 27% “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes against an 87% approval rating from actual viewers). While at first, it struggles a bit to find its voice – it is a mix of a cop drama and a reality show, with a bit of a social message added to the mix – it quickly turns into an action-packed ride filled with a lot of killing on both sides, some magic, and even a few well-placed jokes here and there.

Bright is the perfect example of urban fantasy, putting the races of classic fantasy into our modern world – from this point of view, it feels oddly realistic. Visually, it reminded me of District 9 – it was well designed, and didn’t go overboard with CGI either. Overall, it feels like a solid work with great makeup, well-choreographed action sequences, and even a few surprises here and there. It is refreshingly different but still oddly familiar.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle