‘I think we might be in a Prophecy’: A Review of Bright

Before I start this review, I want to preface this by saying that I know Bright doesn’t appear to be overtly cyberpunk. There is no matrix, there are no rigs, there are no A.I.—essentially, the “cyber” is missing from the film. But I argue that, like cyberpunk fiction, Bright is rooted in the New Wave of science fiction, clinging to the trappings of pulp and softer SF. Also, the film’s emphasis on low-life culture and anxiety of nuclear magic is reminiscent of our beloved Shadowrun. I’d like to think that Bright is perhaps the most Shadowrun-esque we’ll ever see as cyberpunk aficionados, and therefore, I think it is worthy of at least a review here.

‘I wanted to be a cop since I was a little kid. I am nothing else. My badge means more to me than the air I breathe.’

I didn’t get a chance to view Bright when it was released. It was something that I was interested in since it reminded me very much of Shadowrun, but between the Christmas rush, New Years, and some other work, I had little to no time. But I kept in the know and read countless reviews of the film being unoriginal, uninspired, too boring and the worst thing in the history of ever. Initially, it didn’t surprise me as it was directed and partially rewritten by David Ayer of Suicide Squad fame. It was a little disheartening to see Bright, a film that looked super cool and more importantly, featured elves. However, after some snooping around online, and talking to some of my friends, I decided to suck it up and watch the bastard. The plot is as follows:

‘In an alternate present day, humans, orcs, elves and fairies have been coexisting since the beginning of time. Two police officers, one a human, the other an orc, embark on a routine night patrol that will alter the future of their world as they know it. Battling both their own personal differences as well as an onslaught of enemies, they must work together to protect a young female elf and a thought-to-be-forgotten relic, which, in the wrong hands, could destroy everything.’

So, after watching this hooked to my laptop, I can firmly say that I enjoyed the film. It wasn’t perfect (I will get to that), but no film is, and I thought that the positives definitely outweighed the negatives.

I very much enjoyed the setting of this alternate future and I liked seeing this future L.A. as some sort of slum filled to the brim with these “undesirable” orcish civilians. This was Bright’s strongest element as Ayer and Max Landis created a lived-in world that felt authentic. This can be tricky to do and often fails, so I’d like to give credit where credit is due. Another theme I rather enjoyed was the J.R.R. Tolkien-esque legend that permeated the film. In the past, a Dark Lord vied for control over the world, the orcs siding with him in this conquest. This continues to have severe ramifications in the present as the orcs are continued to be looked down upon due to this decision. It may be a little on the nose (tying in with real-world religion and religious people), but I really enjoyed how seriously Bright played with this topic.

‘If you act like my enemy… you become my enemy.’

And did I say that it featured elves? If I didn’t, it features elves and that is a definite plus.

But even though it featured elves, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the worst aspect of Bright, and that is the over the top and hammy social justice motif. That would normally be fine, even encouraged in a world like this. Unfortunately, Ayer and Landis’ directing and writing style is not subtle, and subtlety is key when dealing with such problematic issues Bright raises. For the most part, this can be ignored, and at times even decent, but unfortunately it does get a bit overbearing and cringe-inducing.

‘How the fuck can you make a shootout awkward?’

This also ties into the acting at times, and often feels odd when you have Will Smith spouting lines like ‘fairy lives don’t matter today’ or ‘pig nose orc’. Smith’s character, Daryl Ward, is a problematic character for me as I couldn’t read or even sympathise with him. He may be one of the main protagonists, but I didn’t know whether to like him (especially after some racist sentiments) or even care about his plight. I was far more invested in Joel Edgerton’s portrayal of the meek Nick Jakoby, and that is a problem when you have a buddy-cop film and supposed to like both characters. They also seem to veer into archetypes, and as I mentioned above, can be at times cringe-inducing.

‘I’m a warrior – a priestess – a lover. I am whatever my Lord needs me to be.’

Overall Bright could have done with a slight rewrite, less ham, and obvious social justice. This, however, did not mean the film was unwatchable as critics stated, especially considering that the audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes seems to be in the high eighties. It is a good popcorn film, action-packed, featuring a nicely detailed world that makes me hunger for the sequel. Whilst not as techy or futuristic as Shadowrun, this will have to fill that void in until we get something more akin to the RPG.

But I’m okay with that and recommend Bright if you can glaze over all the problems I mentioned above. You can watch Bright over at Netflix.

Bright – 6/10

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Written by Dann Lewis
Writer. Real Doctor. Phony Academic. Cyberpunk. Hobby Hero.
  1. Edgerton is by far the best thing about this movie!
    And yes, Smith’s character is not so likeable and that could have worked, à la Training Day, if he didn’t have such an obvious outcome. I am happy for those bonding scenes though, or he would have been a waste of time for the viewer.
    how did you feel about the setting of the backstory? Just ok, but sublte or lacking6 If so, how?
    Oh, and those flat antagonists, geez!
    Glad to see that some rules (Shadorwrun rules, that is) still apply to them. “Pow! right in tha kisser!”

    • As I mentioned in the review, I rather enjoyed the setting and backstory. I love how the audience is plonked in the middle of something that they have to piece together to make sense. The more that is left unanswered, the better, as it gives the series a bit of mystery.

      Don’t hate on my Inferni elfsies 😉 I actually disliked that. The only reason they were *SPOILERS* killed was due to the protagonists being shielded by plot armour.

      • Yes, there was some plot armour, but I felt it was more about the Game Master having crafted 3 nigh-invulnerable Baddies and was probably rolling dice just for show. XD
        Then, the players caught on and started using their karma pool…or fate points (your edition may vary).

        • I think I may agree with you there (I prefer fate myself!).

  2. I rather enjoyed this, but I think it’s unfair to judge David Ayer based on Suicide Squad when WB have become notorious for butchering their superhero films from the script stage. I genuinely recommend End of Watch and Fury.

  3. Reminded me of my favorite FPS. Shadowrun 2007 FPS. Which we still play on xboxone, xbox360 and PC.


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