1. Shadowrun: the Movie
If you are at all familiar with the Shadowrun game, then the movie will be instantly recognizable. Humans, orcs, elves, and more have lived together for as long as can be remembered, magic is a frightening and controlled thing, with humans who can use magic being known as 'Brights'. The elves are wealthy, powerful, and arrogant. The orcs are strong, crude, and run in gangs. There are things you see for a second, and then the scene moves away from that paints a picture of a much more massive fantasy world such as a dragon flying the background of one scene, a centaur cop, and the story of the Dark Lord who the orcs sided with 2000 years ago, and how they have been treated as pariahs since then.
2. Alien Nation: with Fantasy Races
The back and forth between Will Smith's Ward and Jackoby, his orc partner, feels strongly reminiscent of the Alien Nation TV series, and this is meant in an entirely complementary fashion. Jackoby struggles with being an orc who has sided with the law and the humans, and isn't accepted by them, and is seen as a traitor by his own kind. Jackoby is a good guy, a lawful good sort who struggles with it. Ward is a hard ass cop who's come back from a gunshot wound on duty, is getting 'too old for this shit'.
3. Standard Police Action Movie
Jokes and setting aside, Bright could be a solid police action movie, with Ward and Jackoby facing corruption, racism, the WMD loose in the city, and having to be the ones who not only recover the device, but also have to escape with their lives, while Internal Affairs has them pitted against each other over an unpopular racial job posting and the questionable nature of Ward's shooting some time before the movie begins.
4. Critics and Racism
One of the themes that runs through Bright is racism, with a black cop paired with an orc cop, and the orcs have taken on most of the social trappings and stereotypes of blacks in California. The elves are likewise cloistered, wealthy, and dismissive of everyone else, the 'whites' of Bright. Apparently this was offensive to critics, along with one shot lines like Smith's Ward shouting FAIRY LIVES DONT MATTER. Don't watch Bright and think that it is going to be a racially sensitive civil rights movie, that would probably be Selma, and that's further down the alphabet. While the critics were offended and many viewers were too, I thought it showed a 'slice of life' of a society that is stratified by capital R Race. The orcs live in the ghetto, playing basketball surrounded by graffiti and the crumbling hulks of tenements and ruined cars. Elftown looks like Dubai with supercars and skyscrapers being the norm.
5. Magic and Wands
Magic is real, it is rare, and it is scary. The Inferni (elves who followed the Dark Lord) want to get 3 wands to resurrect their fallen leader, and the entire arc of Bright is over chasing down one of these magic items. These aren't Harry Potter wands, but rather blue white rods of light that vibrate and drip liquid energy, and a non magic user touching one is blown to ash, on par with grabbing an Infinity Stone. When the magic users start doing things, machine guns and SWAT are rendered helpless and it is presented as a tremendous power, terrifying in what it can do, and what people are willing to do to get it.
6. Make-Up and Effects
Bright looks fantastic, from the practical make up effects on the orcs to things you just see a flash of, like a centaur cop, or a dragon passing through a background shot. Magic looks truly disturbing, and the work done on the elves makes them stand out more than just being pointy eared humans. It has the level of quality I would expect from Lord of the Rings but it is a made for Netflix movie, I am impressed. The set designs are likewise great, from the look of Elftown to the widespread graffiti art that covers the rest of LA and shows a world in progress.
7. Lack of Background
A number of critics of Bright have been vocal that there is no backstory given, and there are many questions that haven't been answered. The Battle of the Alamo is referenced, making that a point of reference, but many want to know about the extensive history of the world of Bright, like beyond the war with the Dark Lord 2000 years ago (which is curious because that makes me pinpoint that at the same time as Jesus and the disciples) things like the world wars and such. I would observe that the movie makes use of in media res, or in the middle of things, a stylistic writing decision, and that this is a fantasy buddy cop movie, and it doesn't need a lengthy introduction of backstory. That would just burden the movie down with massive info-dumps. It can be made available through print media, books, a wiki style site, whatever, but ultimately, the information these critics demand is ultimately unimportant to the story.
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