By consensus, ‘Bright’ is trash, trading in tropes, but Netflix thinks it’s a success
The reviews are in, and by most accounts the straight to Netflix “blockbuster” Bright is a really expensive bomb. The 90 million dollar Will Smith led action/buddy cop/fantasy film is a big part of Netflix’s gambit to compete with not only the major Hollywood studios on the TV front, but to eventually compete with and potentially replace them as prime destinations for big budget movies that would have gone to theatres pre-Netflix takeover.
Unfortunately for Netflix, they haven’t quite taken over just yet, and any positive buzz about the movie has been quickly met with an avalanche of derision.
Even Chance the Rapper is joining in on the pile up, offering comments about the movie’s lack of nuance and understanding about trying to create a racial allegory film. The rapper took to Twitter to voice his concerns about the film’s direction:
Wondering how you guys are feeling about the lynched [orc] in #BrightMovie…I found the way they tried to illustrate [America’s] racism through the mythical creatures to be a little shallow…I always feel a lil cheated when I see allegorical racism in movies ’cause that racism usually stems from human emotion or tolerance, but not by law or systems, the way it is in real life. The characters in ‘Bright’ live in a timeline where racism is gone… cause we hate [orcs] now.
Chance makes a valid point about how fantasy tends to trade in racism for mythical creatures, and at one point refers to a point fairly early in the movie where Will Smith’s character says “fairy lives don’t matter” as one reason why he can’t take to the film’s metaphor. In another tweet, Chance called out the social dynamics of the film which tried to essentially establish orcs as what James Baldwin would describe as “the nigger that America needs” by saying that the orcs are “a step below the spectrum of Blackness”
Despite these abysmal movie reviews, Netflix has already ordered a sequel. If Netflix’s budget over the next year is any indication, the sequel could top the hundred million dollar mark. A traditional Hollywood studio probably could not survive a trashing of this magnitude, but it’s unclear what exactly constitutes a flop for Netflix when they don’t release streaming data on their movies.
If they have already ordered a sequel, then one has to assume that either the movie met whatever criteria Netflix deems a success, or that they simply don’t care about throwing 90 million dollars at a wall of consumers and hoping that it sticks. Netflix may not necessarily need Bright to be “successful” to succeed, but you do have to wonder why it chose to roll the dice with these specific elements, as they can often go awry with audiences of color.