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Two movies come to mind when watching urban fantasy buddy cop movie, Bright. The first is Last Action Hero, in which we are shown how police stations exist simply to pair up queues of mismatching cops. Even in 1993, audiences and movie makers had gotten wise to how hackneyed and cookie cutter buddy cop movies had become. The second movie is Zootopia, which showed us how something as generic as buddy cop movie could not only be made fresh again for a 2016 audience, but also be capable of discussing the bigger issues with subtlety and thought.
And then there's Bright, a hackneyed buddy cop movie in which Will Smith's character says "fairy lives don't matter!" in the first five minutes. Bright has nothing clever to add about anything. It shows us a modern day America where elves and orcs live alongside humans, but not as equals. Orcs are used as a stand in for black urban Americans, elves the wealthy white elite. We are given some opening credit exposition in the form of some helpfully detailed graffiti as to how this relationship came about, but if you think about it for more than a second, none of it works; if the orcs are super strong and the elves are superior at everything, why aren't the humans the subjugated ones? They're the runts of this society, but here they're depicted as the middle-class. Also, would a world with magic and super strong beings really look exactly the same as modern day LA, or would our society evolve into something that looks completely different? These questions I asked myself to distract from the cack-handed depictions of police brutality and racism, and also the show's problematic decision to parallel black people with a race of dangerous, ugly, tribal, monster people.
Once you get past the utterly awful racial stuff you get an utterly uninspired plot, wherein our two mismatched cops, one orc and one human, get stuck with a magic wand. It's basically a super rare and valuable Mcguffin everyone will kill for. There's lots of info dumped about prophesies, ancient dark ones, and blood leaders but it doesn't pay off in any meaningful way, and just forces our protagonists to run from dark alleyway to dark alleyway for the entire movie. This could have been saved if there were at least some imaginative action and fantasy fighting, but its too murky and samey. As with Suicide Squad, Will Smith turns up the 90s smart mouth charisma, but it is one bright spark in a clumsy, cliched, unpleasant and thoroughly boring movie.
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