This time I’ll be talking spoilers about Bright. I do recommend watching the movie first. If you’re not sure if you want to, my spoiler-free review is here.
Everybody ready? Here be spoilers.
This took longer than I intended since I wanted to get some other posts done for this one.
Let me first just say, if a person doesn’t like it, they don’t like it. Not all movies & shows can be for everyone. I get that if you are not sold on this movie within the first couple of minutes, then nothing will really change. Urban fantasy is the style of the movie and if that just doesn’t appeal to you, then just skip it. I own the entire Underworld series unironically so I was sold on the film pretty quickly.
That’s probably the first big divide as far as this movie goes and it’s a part of the bargain audiences strike up with the storyteller. How much of a benefit of a doubt do you give them?
So what about those who are into Urban Fantasy and didn’t like the film? I’ll answer the best replies I’ve seen.
Again, part of that I understand because the movie does a lot of SHOWING in relation to its magic without TELLING, which is often a bad idea. However, there is one part which does follow the show AND tell rule: “Magic needs a wand – only brights can hold wands.” That this is the only rule defined, is intelligent because it is the core rule the movie revolves around. So when people ask, “why doesn’t [villain] just [magic solution]?” we know at least 1 answer is: she doesn’t have her wand. The question is the equivalent of asking why 1 guy doesn’t shoot somebody else to get his gun back. (see the paradox?)
From there follows another point that I think a lot of reviewers are missing (and part of why I enjoyed this movie so much). There is a DIFFERENCE between what magic can actually do, vs what people perceive that it can do. This is often an overlooked differentiation as audiences frequently assume that characters should know more about the world they inhabit than we do. Which is true like 80% of the time – if there ever is a split between what the audience vs character know, the story usually highlights it (for example: if we’re aware of who the traitor is).
In bright, the dividing line is not so stark. See, much of the driving forces of the movie is good old fashioned greed. Now normally I hate greed as a motivation in films – especially as very often the actions of a greedy person would logically cost them more money in the long term than it would to be less villainous. At least in Bright, this time the greed of the characters make sense. Does it matter whether magic can actually do even half the things they believe? No, because the point is that they believe that it can. Once you realize this, the actions that follow throughout the movie are quite logical. I mean, have you lost a loved one? Get trillions and trillions of dollars – heck take all the money in the world – and it doesn’t matter, your loved one is still dead. But get a wand? Now your loved one might live. Imagine there was a lottery, and you knew that the grand prize was a resurrection (and knew it was true and not a scam). Say you’re a parent, and you lost your child. Are you really going to tell me that you wouldn’t spend every spare change you have every day of your life on that lottery just for the chance to bring your kid back? Say you hear someone else has a winning ticket. What would you do to get it away from them? Are you honestly sure you wouldn’t attack them, risk killing them just for that winning ticket? Really? You really start considering the stakes that the wand provides to the story, and the characters actions are understandable.
For instance, I’ve heard it asked why the elf girl is so secretive with the two protagonists. Well, just look at the surrounding desire for the wand? Sure they seem decent, stand-up fellows right now, but will it last? How does she know if they might not give into the greed later? Maybe once everything stops, and they consider just what the wand means, they’ll turn on her too. Maybe the guys are just pretending to protect her until they can use her. If anything I perfectly understood the elf girl’s actions. She trusts no one for good reason. It takes one of them dying for her to trust them. After all, it’s hard to prove yourself more trustworthy than to die for a cause – or a job – or an innocent person.
From there, there are points which are inferred more than explicit, so yes interpretation can go either way. Like why don’t the heroes use the wand to solve their problems? Well at least when it is used we often see resulting fireballs light up the night sky. When the idea is that you want to avoid people’s attention, drawing it is counterproductive. In some ways it’s like trying to shovel your walkway while it’s snowing, by throwing hot water on it. Yes it may temporarily solve your problem, but then it will quickly compound it. We also see that when the elf girl uses the wand, she begins to grow sick. Why? No we’re not sure – it could be either a “price” of resurrecting someone, or maybe the wand has an enchantment on it to prevent people other than the owner using it. Still there is at least 2 prices to be paid for using magic of some kind – another reason to avoid using it.
Why wasn’t Will Smith affected by whatever affected the elf girl? Well the wand changed color when he held it up – something we never saw it do before so there is at least a visual signal that something about the wand’s state was changed. Maybe he’s the kind of Bright that can overpower ownership enchantments – maybe it did affect him and they fixed him up in the hospital at the end.
I’ve heard some ask: why did the elf girl need to be put in the water? To which: Really? I mean… really? The glowing water was in a cross-shaped pool underneath the roots of a tree. The imagery and symbolism was so incredibly blatant that I’m legitimately surprised anybody needs this bit explained since it’s one of the few times the visuals themselves do both show AND tell.
Now I will admit that a lot of this is acceptable for a FIRST movie, but if there are any sequels it will definitely need to begin providing answers. Maybe Will Smith goes somewhere to train and learns the details that fill in what we saw in movie #1.
So yeah, I can understand why some folk might not like Bright, but it’s not as wretched as many are trying to meme it as. But it has a real story, with consistent characters, a tight plot and a fascinating world.
That’s all I ask out of a film.
If you want to discuss it more, feel free to drop a comment. It’s ok to disagree.
Another view from a guy I half agree with and half disagree with (but he makes coherent points).
(I’m rather surprised RedLetterMedia seemed to agree with the wider critics in disliking this, but maybe they’re not much into urban fantasy.)