Bright is movie currently airing on Netflix, written by Max Landis and directed by David Ayer. It stars Will Smith as a policeman in an alternate world where magic is real and mythical races such as elves, orcs, and fairies exist openly in society. Practically everything else is the same as in our world. There are automobiles, computers, cell phones, and drug-selling crimelords. This particular movie is about Smith’s partnership with the first-ever orc policeman in Los Angeles, played by Joel Edgerton. Thus it’s a fish-out-of-water buddy cop story similar to the 1989 series Alien Nation and the 2016 animated film Zootopia.
It seems like a metaphor for race relations, except that the humans in Bright don’t pretend to be egalitarian. They are openly hostile and discriminatory against orcs, whom they regard as stupid and violent. Besides the orc underclass, there’s an elvish elite that is relatively wealthy and clannish, and lives and works in its own exclusive neighborhoods. It reminded me of a certain religious group that is the subject of numerous conspiracy theories, except that the elves are all blond, like pointy-eared Aryans.
Those of you who have seen Alien Nation would notice a distinct similarity, but a much grittier feel. In the older show, the rookie cop is a member of a group of alien refugees from slavery who crash-landed on earth. The alien and the orc even look similar, with spotted skin and hairless pates. Smith’s character Daryl Ward is conflicted between his ethics and his anti-orc prejudices, especially since a mistake by this same orc a few months prior led to his being shot and nearly killed. He has the clever laugh lines you’d expect from him, though the overall tone is serious. Edgerton plays the orc Nick Jakoby with understated humor as a well-meaning misfit with an Aspergerish disregard for human social convention. Ward plots to trick Jackoby into admitting violating regulations to get him fired and out of his hair. Instead, they encounter an elf mage with a stolen magic wand, an artifact which is both extremely rare and highly dangerous. Everyone wants it, so Ward and Jackoby must work together to survive as they’re targeted by criminal gangs, renegade elves, and crooked cops. By the way, a “bright” is a person with the innate talent to use a magic wand without being killed by it.
The movie had non-stop action, and I definitely enjoyed it, despite its silly premise and blunt social commentary. It held my interest for its two-hour length. The orcs were a combination of outlaw bikers, ghetto gangsters, and hardcore metal-heads. The elves were by far the more interesting, however. If this movie was to turn into a series (which was what happened with Alien Nation) I’d like to see more of those pointy-eared elitists. Interestingly, Rotten Tomatoes gives Bright an 86% audience score but only a 26% critic score. But who cares what those critics think?