Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Microreview [film]: Bright

Way better than I expected--thanks, critics!

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Ayer, David, dir. Bright. Netflix: Dec. 2017.


It could simply be because I watched it on New Year’s Eve after one three eggnog martinis (liberally spiked with the delightful pumpkin spice flavor of Kahlua!), and because of lowered expectations due to all the hate floating around about it, but Bright was actually fun! Were all the critics who despised it really watching the same film as me? And if so, I’ve got the perfect remedy: eggnog martinis!

First of all, it’s great to see urban fantasy—any urban fantasy—get such a huge-profile debut. The vitriol over the film can be usefully subdivided into two categories: diehard urban fantasy snowflake-fans up in arms over this or that inauthentic aspect of the film’s depiction (or appropriation) of the genre, or clueless lamestream media hack reviewers who have no idea what urban fantasy is or should be, pretentious fops who use terms like “pictures” or “films” and shun hoi polloi vernacular like “movies” religiously.

As a self-proclaimed middle of the roader, I fail to see why we have to listen to either of these categories of ‘experts’ and can instead sit down to appreciate Bright’s many good points (and trust me, they only get better with some eggnogtinis!). For instance, this is a movie which actually addresses racial tensions! Is its attempt to tackle racism (by replacing socially disadvantaged groups with entirely different species) heavy-handed? You bet it is! But at this point, at a time when most people in the developed world receive pre-selected news/‘information’ based upon various algorithms’ predictions of what we already believe, just having such a high-profile film project address such a sensitive issue at all is a win of sorts.

But also—have you actually seen the movie, or are you just spewing hate a priori? You might be surprised by how empirically entertaining the finished film turned out to be. Sure, parts of it are hokey, like the (to me) gratuitous scene of Will Smith’s character beating a mischievous fairy or sprite or whatever to death in his front lawn, to the jeering cheers of his cop-hating neighbors. And yeah, it would have been a better film if it had been made more tongue-in-cheek instead of being billed as a straight-up urban buddy cop action extravaganza. Yet even so, when Bright is good, it's downright watchable! 

The special effects are generally thrilling, and the human performances are pretty good too (though I confess to being a bit disappointed in Naomi Rapace’s turn as villain, as she couldn’t quite sell the necessary menace, that indefinable yet palpable air of lethality). Smith delivers here in a manner fans haven’t seen much in this period of his career--you know, just a few years after he thought it would be a good idea to appear in After Earth. So here’s the final word: what exactly is supposed to be so bad about the movie? Am I missing something? Did I have eggnogtini googles on when I saw this? I’m sure you’ll let me know in the comments below J

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Smith rediscovers his acting chops, aided by the massive drop in expectations following the turd-fest After Earth!

The Math:

Objective Assessment: 6/10

Bonuses: +1 for sizzling special effects in an urban fantasy movie, +1 for addressing racism, even in this rather goofy way

Penalties: -1 for the heartless scene showing the murder of a fairy and the taking-themselves-way-too-seriously-vibe

Nerd coefficient: 7/10 “An enjoyable experience, but not without its flaws”
 

[Incidentally, 7/10 is a totally respectable score here at Nerds of a Feather—see here for details.]

This message is brought to you by Zhaoyun, purveyor of urban fantasy in all its forms and reviewer for Nerds of a Feather since 2013.

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