I like to experience anything new with an open mind. However, that’s a lot easier said than done when that new thing has been shoved in your face for a year (plus or minus a year) without you ever getting a chance to actually experience it. That’s why I avoid movie trailers and most video game news sites. Keeps me calm and unbiased when I finally sit down to something new. At the same time, I’ve only got so much time on this planet, so I try to get recommendations from people whose judgment I trust so I can do my best to avoid wasting my time on something. Which is why, against several recommendations and what felt like my better judgment, I sat down to watch the Netflix original movie, Bright, with an open mind.
The recommendations I solicited and the ones I encountered on the internet were all heavy with criticism for this Netflix original movie, but I think a lot of it is unwarranted. Sure, there is plenty of room left in the story for there to be sequels, but no part of the movie felt like it was specifically left in to shoehorn in a few more loose threads for potential sequels. There were a few moments that dragged along, sure, but they were relatively short and in the two-to-five range, depending on your preferences. The story set up the world and its politics succinctly and quickly, it developed the characters and the story very well, and it had just enough ambiguity at the end to leave you wondering if there was going to be a sequel. Which means there will be one because that’s what Netflix is in the business of doing nowadays. I think a lot of people overlooked the context of the movie when they commented on it: everything has a sequel these days, even things that shouldn’t, so of course you’re going to feel like they built one in.
The world’s magic and technology were delightful and just unexplained enough to be interesting without being too vague to feel real or too powerful to feel like anything other than a deus ex machina. The magic is a central feature of the movie, but they do a good job of not addressing exactly how it works until near to the end without making it feel like they left a gaping hole in the world. When you do finally get to see it in action, you finally get to see a world whose magic is truly above and beyond what any normal person could handle. Hell, there are some Elves who may or may not be using magic to fight people and their individual power level is ridiculous even without a magic wand. It was like watching a bunch of 20th level player characters walk into a town with nothing but level 1 guards who tried to apprehend them. Ridiculous, credibility-stretching slaughter right up until the protagonists started fighting them. To be entirely fair, they do a good job of establishing just how stupid-strong the protagonists are through some excellent background shots (Orcs are super strong and tough), and a really bad-ass slow-motion scene (with a magical “all the bullets I need” gun).
Since it is a fantasy story (probably urban fantasy), I’m willing to give it some leeway when it comes to what we usually call “realism.” Some of the characters made thinly veiled references to being in a story and one such reference was even the justification for a character to do something that had an extreme (1,000,000 to 1) chance of killing him. I want to believe that was a Terry Pratchett reference, as he often had characters reference the fact that million-to-one odds basically guaranteed it was going to work out. I don’t really think it is, though. The story is too different and there are much more accessible homages to Terry Pratchett that could have been included without breaking the fourth wall, such making a few obvious links between the police and the night watch in Ankh-Morpork.
If you like fantasy, want to encourage more well-made fantasy movies, want to encourage the trend of new urban-fantasy media, or just want to tell Netflix to keep it up in general, I suggest watching Bright. You’ll never get that two and a half hours of your life back, but I definitely don’t regret spending my time watching this movie. I might even watch it again with some new people who won’t talk during the whole thing. I love my roommates and all, but c’mon.