If you ask Joel Edgerton, audiences should ignore the negative reception Bright received because it’s a movie made for the masses, not the critics. Making the media rounds to promote his latest flick, Red Sparrow, the Aussie star opened up about all the deluge of bad reviews his Netflix blockbuster garnered when the streaming service dropped its first big budget offering last December — a fantasy cop drama-cum-allegory on modern racism from filmmaker David Ayers.
And while reviewers were indeed harsh — Indiewire’s David Ehrlich called it “the worst movie of 2017” for its ill-conceived mash up of Training Day and Lord of the Rings — Netflix was positively glowing. The studio disruptor touted the $90 million Bright was one of its “most-watched pieces of content” ever, no doubt helping add 8.3 million subscribers in Q4 of 2017
And that’s despite the Max Landis-penned movie earning a big green splat on Rotten Tomatoes with a 27 pecent "rotten" rating from critics. While regular viewers streaming at home were much kinder with Bright’s audience score certified 85 percent fresh.
So how does Edgerton account for the vast gulf between critical hate and popular love? Chalk it up to Netflix’s ambition to shake up the movie business, he said.
“All I know is what was reported, which was something like—whatever number was reported—something like 11 million [viewers] that first weekend. Whatever it was, it amounted to a $100 million-plus opening weekend,” Edgerton told Collider. “But, I have to be honest, that’s considering that people don’t have to get in their car, go buy a ticket, go buy the popcorn.”
The 43-year-old actor, who endured hours in prosthetics to play Orc cop Nick Jakoby opposite Will Smith’s human LAPD officer Daryl Ward, thinks Netflix’s numbers for Bright are pretty accurate. As evidence, he compared his movie to Rotten Tomatoes’ aggregate rating for The Last Jedi, which earned 90 percent from critics and only 48 percent from audiences and, as we all know, is one of the biggest box office hits of the year.
Added Edgerton: “And you get to Bright, which is sort of slammed by critics, but it has a 90 percent audience score. I think there was a little bit of extra critical hate towards it because it’s changing the landscape of the movie business, but I think Bright is maybe a movie that needs to be reviewed by public opinion rather than viewed through the highbrow prism of film criticism.”
While critics might take issue with that argument — after all, their job is to review the film itself and not necessarily to ponder how it’s distributed — Edgerton has high hopes for where things may go in the sequel Netflix greenlit with Ayers back at the helm.
“I think there’s a lot of fun to be had, there’s more to discover with the characters. I don’t know exactly where they’re going to take it. I got the sense from David that he might take it to a new setting, which I think would be cool to see,” he said. “I personally was most curious of what was happening outside of Los Angeles, and obviously the world at large is populated by similar characters and how does that affect other cities? I think it’d be awesome to have a look at that. It’s interesting where do Daryl and Nick go now that they’ve had that experience. Is Jacoby now suddenly more accepted because he went through that experience, or is he going to go back to work on Monday and have people mistreat him?”
Edgerton even envisioned a possible trilogy, something he would be game given his love for Jakoby.
“Between ‘action’ and ‘cut’, it was one of the most exciting characters I ever got to play just because of the complete freedom," he said. "I love improvising, it was my version of like playing Chunk in Goonies or Shrek or something—the big, kicked-to-the-curb, ugly, misunderstood, monster character.”