Bright is Training Day Meets Lord of the Rings, the Ultimate Cop and Fairy Tale Flick

When it comes to Hollywood screenwriters who have made a distinct impact with their work, Max Landis who wrote Bright, always comes to mind. His work is often a deliberate mix of genres that when woven together, produce highly original, violent and funny films. Like with American Ultra, or the television show Dirk Gently, Bright mixes together familiar concepts and setups in a way that’s refreshing and thoughtful but not without its problems.

To put it simply, Bright is Training Day meets Lord of the Rings. It’s a world where orcs, elves, fairies and humans all co-exist. Will Smith plays veteran cop Scott Ward returning to duty after a shooting left him injured and the all the precinct can gossip about. He’s partnered—against his wishes—with the LAPDs first ever orc officer Nick Jakoby played by Joel Edgerton and it’s their relationship and the familiar back and forth banter that anchors Bright and provides a ton of great humour.

While the central plot is adequate, it does fall into characters running around trying to capture one specific object. In this case, it’s a very powerful wand that’s only able to be used by specific elves, which is where actress Lucy Fry comes in as Tikka. Fry, Smith and Edgerton make up the core component of the film with veteran actress Noomi Rapace taking on the role of Tikka’s malevolent sister who’s trying to steal back the wand for her own nefarious purposes. The Australian born Fry is fantastic as Tikka and has an interesting story arc that feels fleshed out and nuanced due to the lore that Landis and co., have written into the world.

“I love the spirituality and mysticism of elves, so in the first audition I went in that direction with the ethereal quality of Tikka. But then David [Ayer] is all about gritty realism and going into the heart of darkness and finding the light there,” Fry said in a roundtable interview at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. “He really helped me bring Tikka into this world.”  

In terms of direction, Ayer (who actually wrote Training Day) does a nice job of visually combining the two worlds and creating a cohesive aesthetic that feels believable and lived in. Like with his other films, End of Watch, Fury, and Sabotage, Ayer delivers a very muscular and visceral style of filmmaking that he’s become known for. His penchant for realism throughout his films plays well here and does the fantastical aspects of Bright a service by grounding them in a context the audience can understand. Also, the action is fast and brutal with a palpable sense of desperation from all sides to gain control of this wand and become all powerful.  

Speaking of the world building aspects, Landis’ screenplay for Bright takes familiar thematic beats and weave them into the context of the film’s environment. For example, the idea of the fish out of water cop dealing with ignorance and racism from his fellow officers is on full display in Bright, but it’s humans disgusted with an Orc. Or how Elves are viewed as an aristocratic, upper class community while the Wizards and Orcs occupy the middle and lower class. Even when it comes to the nature of Los Angeles gang culture, the audience is treated to multiple scenes with a prominent Orc gang who on the surface are depicted as violent and brutish, but thanks to the direction of David Ayer and the writing of Landis, they’re a fleshed out community by the end of Bright, complete with their own history and lore.

“David always made it come back to something that you can believe is true and connecting it to myself. So there was the mystical and magical quality there, but there’s also the grounded reality of Tikka fighting for equality and her own place in this world,” Fry said.  

Bright is just different enough that the things the audience would consider normal and rote within a traditional cop film, take on a new flavour and unsettling nature when shown from the point of view of people who look different from us. And this idea of the other, dominates a lot of what Bright has to say about it’s characters. Almost every major character in the film who displays heroic tendencies (albeit flawed) feels like an outsider, different than the rest of the community they supposedly belong to. Even Smith, as a human, feels ostracized from the men and women he’s worked with before and it creates a unifying dynamic between all three of the central characters that I really appreciated watching.

The biggest compliment I can give Bright is that after it was over I wanted to know more about the universe, wishing other resources existed a la the Lord of the Rings, where I could get lost in the world of Bright just a little bit longer.

Bright begins streaming on Netflix December 22.

By Devin Jones

Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.