Now, in the final days of 2017 his latest, Netflix’s first bona fide blockbuster original film, BRIGHT has launched. With teaser trailers peppering the internet and social media platforms 6-months in advance, Netflix are putting everything they have behind the project. As well they should. Netflix wont release the numbers to their films but the estimates are that BRIGHT has a price-tag of $90-million. Considerable, to say the least, especially when the film will never see the inside of a multiplex.
Lord knows Ayer needs something to drag him out of the quagmire that Suicide Squad put him in, and Will Smith, once golden child of Hollywood, hasn’t had a decent hit in an age.
So along comes Max Landis’ script, a genre mash-up of tough, street-smart LA cops and the mythical, fantastic beasts they live side-by-side with. That’s right, Orcs, fairies and Goblins now live out in the open, holding down regular jobs, shopping, paying taxes and breaking laws. In comes Will Smith as LA boy-in-blue Daryl Ward, a no-nonsense cop who has been assigned a new partner, Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton) who also happens to be the first Orc on the LAPD.
With such a diverse melting-pot of races and cultures, tensions begin to rise. During their regular day-to-day they stumble across an ancient prophecy about a magic wand which, should it fall into the hands of a ‘bright’ will release the Dark Lord.
The catch is that the wand and the prophecy serve as McGuffins, giving the framework for the exploration of this world's complex social structure and the responsibilities each race has therein. Elves - the elite - sit right at the top. Teflon and untouchable. Humans come just below, utilitarian and the masses, then below them the Orc race, the street level gangsters and societies punch-bags.
Max Landis’ script (for which Netflix gave him $3.5million) has his fingerprints all over it. The wunderkind has a voice so unique it’s easy to feel it’s a Landis story. It’s a mix of the fantastical and the whimsical. Of violence and love. It’s a lesson on tolerance and acceptance, of assimilation and individualism and, unlike most mega-budget flicks these days, those themes are clear and concise and present. Although lets having said that, the concepts explored are not unlike the 1988 film Alien Nation.
Landis’ script isn’t the only drawcard for BRIGHT though. Much like Ayer’s previous, END OF WATCH, a great deal of BRIGHT’s success is as a result of the charm and chemistry of the Smith/Edgerton partnership. There’s an ease and familiarity between them that serves as an easy portal for the viewer to step over the threshold into this new world.
Edgerton in particular, as the vulnerable Orc, is fantastic. A victim of casual racism and bigotry even though his heart is always in the right place. Smith does his usual Smith schtick; too cool for school with a wise-crack for everything.
BRIGHT isn’t going to be for everyone but in a world where tent-pole blockbusters are dumbed down and homogenised to play it safe, BRIGHT is the kind of tentpole we need. It’s brave and exciting, it looks amazing and it's rewatchable. We don't need less risks. We need more risks.