This makes the 5th Max Landis film I’ve reviewed for the site. I enjoyed everything he’s done with the exception of Victor Frankenstein. So it kind of goes without saying that I’m going to review Bright, the newest addition to Max’s ever growing writing credit.
So I’ve mentioned this before, the thing I really admire about Max Landis is his ability to come up with great concepts. Take the concept for Bright for example. Years ago, he was on a podcast and if you’ve never listened to Max Landis on a podcast I highly recommend it. Anyway, like he usually does, he starts pitching a film idea. Another thing Max excels at is the craft of pitching. He starts pitching an idea for a modern day Lord of the Rings sequel. And hey, a few years later we get Bright, a modern day Lord of the Rings style fantasy film.
He did the same thing for his TV series Dirk Gently. On yet another podcast he pitched the idea of a gay Romeo and Juliet story. And what did we get in season 2 of Dirk Gently? A bunch of crazy shit, but also mixed in there was a gay Romeo and Juliet story. It played out almost exactly how he pitched the idea on the podcast.
Bright has been getting some of the worst reviews of 2017. If you think this movie is one of the worst films of 2017, you must have not seen that many movies. It’s better than Dark Tower and Geostorm at least.
Bright I think is important. It’s important because it’s a Netflix film, a Netflix film that cost 90 million to make. Proving you don’t have to go to the theater to see a theater quality movie anymore. It’s ushering in a way of doing things in Hollywood. I honestly believe this is the beginning of a renaissance.
Sure, smaller budget films have been coming to streaming services since forever now, a lot of them usually starring Bruce Willis, but they always felt like straight to video movies. Bright however feels different. It has the budget behind it, which is a plus but it also has the talent. And not just actors looking for an easy paycheck. With Will Smith to headline and David Ayer directing, this is no B movie . The last time these two teamed up together it was for Suicide Squad, not exactly a straight to video production. Even though I really didn’t care for it that much.
I don’t mind Will Smith, I know Hank isn’t the biggest fan, but I find him way more tolerable than say Jamie Foxx. David Ayer on the other hand I’m a bit more critical of. I feel he’s kind of a one trick pony.
So let’s get into this, the most hated film of 2017 for some reason.
What would Middle-earth look like 2 thousand years after the events of Lord of the Rings? In Max’s mind it looks a lot like modern day Los Angeles. The thing I really love the most about this film is the world Max has built. It has more world building than all the Star Wars films combined.
Seeing as all the Lord of the Rings stuff is copyrighted, Max has to tweak a few things to not get sued. In this world, the orcs chose to follow The Dark Lord. Who is our Sauron stand in. 2 thousand years ago the only thing to defeat him were Brights, what they call magic wielders. Any normal person who even touches a wand explodes. Because of this power it is has been banned from anyone owning one.
Now orcs are treated mostly as our Latino stand ins. Even though in this world there are also Latinos. Orcs have a strong loyalty to one another, making it hard for them to become cops, where they’d have to go against their clan. They’re also still hated for the whole Dark Lord thing too.
Enter Jakoby, the LAPD’s first orc police officer. He’s a diversity hire, tasked to partner with Ward a human, played by Will Smith.
Ward has been on medical leave since getting shot on the job by an orc. Jakoby chased the perp down but he got away. Now everyone on the force even Ward believes he let the orc go because orcs stick together even if that’s not what really happened.
Ward hates being partnered with him, but there isn’t much he can do about it. That is until his captain asks him to record Jakoby admitting to letting the orc who shot him go. This recorder had more of a role in the script, but was basically forgotten about in the movie. While I’m at it, this film, minus a few things here and there, follows Max’s draft almost page for page.
Ward and Jakoby hit the streets, getting called to a disturbance in the bad part of town. They find themselves at a safehouse for the Shield of Light, a militant group dedicated to gathering magic incase the Dark Lord ever comes back.
When Ward and Jakoby get there, everyone inside is dead, turned to a crisp. They find a little elf girl named Tikka who possesses a magic wand. Having called in backup, they arrive, wanting to take the wand for themselves.
They plan on killing Jakoby, seeing as no way he’d be a part of this. Ward agrees, knowing if he didn’t they’d most likely kill him right then and there. So he plays along. In the script I believe he uses the tape recorder to eavesdrop on them when he leaves the room. But the recorder was pretty much axed from the film, so no point in mentioning it probably.
Ward quickly takes out the dirty cops and gets the wand, but since Jakoby has no idea what’s going on, he thinks Ward has gone off the deep end, wanting to arrest him on the spot.
But that’s interrupted when a local gang shows up, wanting to collect the wand for themselves.
With a protection spell, they can’t get too far from the wand’s original user, someone Tikka is dreadfully afraid of. Enter Leilah, played by Noomi Rapace. She’s a dark elf looking to resurrect the Dark Lord. The Shield of Light were keeping Tikka safe from her, until she sent one of her minions to the safehouse, wielding her wand. Now she wants it back.
In Max’s script, one thing I took issue with was the FBI agents of magic. They didn’t really seem to serve much of a purpose. In the script they seemed pointless, in the film they’re even more irrelevant. They’re something to cut to when we spend too much time with Ward and Jakoby.
Now the film has devolved into a remake of End of Watch. Ward, Jakoby and Tikka are on the run, not sure who they can trust. They have gangs after them, a crazy elf and a corrupt police force they have to evade.
In what I think has been used at least two other times by David Ayer, our crew runs into a gang, only to be spared because previously they helped save the gang member’s kid. Well, spared isn’t the right word to use, seeing as they kill Jakoby anyways but Tikka brings him back to life with the wand.
Jakoby is hated by his fellow orcs because he isn’t blooded like most orcs, meaning he doesn’t belong to a clan, aka a gang. He also works with humans, another betrayal. So really Jakoby is just hated by everyone. I also love the fact he thinks they’re in a prophecy.
Everyone talks about how this film takes itself way too seriously, but they completely ignore all the humor this film has. Like when Ward is rushing to load a shotgun and drops all the shells on the car floor, having Jakoby calling him butterfingers.
These are very fleshed out characters. Ward lives with his ex-wife, taking care of a kid that isn’t his own. And the same for Jakoby, he’s an orc that has dreamed of being a cop since he was a kid. Other orcs look down on him because he isn’t blooded. The film almost feels like we were dropped into a miniseries and this in the last episode.
Sure Alien Nation comes to mind when thinking about Bright. But that’s what Max Landis does. He takes something that already exists and gives it a twist.
The first thing that came to mind was that MTV series Death Valley, about cops having to deal with zombies and vampires. I actually thought of that show before Alien Nation dawned on me.
If you like action films, fantasy, or you’re a fan of Max Landis or even David Ayer, and if you have a Netflix account, check it out. It gets a SEE IT rating.
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