Will Smith hits Netflix with the new fantasy/cop drama Bright on Friday, but the early reviews are just in now, and they seem less than glowing. With Suicide Squad helmer David Ayer directing and a script by Victor Frankenstein's Max Landis, this is Netflix’s first big-budget offering, and the early consensus seems to be that they whiffed.
The race allegory has been panned as shallow, with Forbes comparing it to Zootopia -- only not as trenchant. Others complain about the film’s visuals, the lazy first-draft writing, and the shoddy action. With plans to pump out a boatload of films over the next year, Netflix has plenty of opportunity to get things right as it builds out its proprietary content library, but this likely isn't the start they were hoping for, at least not critically.
Vanity Fair's Jordan Hoffman isn't thrilled with the orcish character Nick, saying "[Joel] Edgerton is, to be fair, tasked with being engaging despite a ton of makeup. But his whole character is predicated on a transparent device: Nick does not know 'how things work,' so he asks a bunch of dumb questions that give us our (painfully slow) entry into this half-assed world."
The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore isn't just fed up with the characterizations in the screenplay, but also rails on the dialogue. "It's possible that this screenplay holds a record for the number of times people tell each other to 'shut up,' but if not, those words are spat out often enough that it's hard not to guffaw when they pop up at a moment that should be dramatic," DeFore writes. He then laments that "if only the guffaws came more frequently, or gave more pleasure, Bright might be worth watching."
Heralding the film as "the worst movie of 2017," IndieWire's David Ehrlich slams the film's central metaphor hard. "As if the film’s racial dynamics aren’t flimsy enough — don’t ask how black people fit into a story that problematically recodes them as a violent breed of orcs who are responsible for their own subjugation, because screenwriter Max Landis never did — its fantasy mythology is even less coherent." Ouch.
Apparently Forbes' Scott Mendelson doesn't think Bright is much to look at either, citing "washed-out visuals and incoherent action editing that most VOD action offerings would laugh out of the room."
Granted, not everyone was down on the film, but Variety's positive review was a major outlier. Their critic, Peter Debruge, falls head over heels for Landis, devoting an entire paragraph to an extended Quentin Tarantino comparison.
With all that taken into account, the public will make their own minds up, but since Netflix is enigmatic about viewership data, it'll be interesting to see the fallout beyond the Tomatometer (which currently sits at 29% rotten after 17 critic reviews).
Bright hits Netflix on Friday. Are you still excited?