Netflix’s Bright Is a Will Smith Action Flick, and Nothing More

Netflix's Bright Is a Will Smith Action Flick, and Nothing More

Will Smith and Joel Edgerton in a still from Netflix’s Bright


  • Bright hits Netflix on December 22
  • The film stars Will Smith, Joel Edgerton
  • David Ayer (Suicide Squad) is the director

Netflix has made a name for itself in the television department over the last few years, thanks to the likes of Stranger Things, BoJack Horseman, and the various Marvelshows. But it doesn’t have that kind of credibility on the movies front yet, where it’s fighting studios with much deeper pockets, and also always pushes for a same-day release on its platform as in theatres. 2017 has been a big year for Netflix though, with the Cannes-premiere of Korean adventure Okja, the major deal for Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, and now the release of its most expensive film to date, Bright.

The film takes place in an alternate reality where humans, orcs, elves, and fairies have lived beside each other since the beginning of time. Will Smith stars as a human LAPD cop named Ward, who’s been reluctantly paired with an orc cop named Jakoby, played by Joel Edgerton, due to a diversity hire programme initiated by the department. This bit is slightly reminiscent of Zootopia’s opening, which also features a diversity-hire police officer, and both films talk about society judging individuals on their appearances, rather than seeing them for who they really are.

But following two cops is also reminiscent of most films written and/or directed by David Ayer – he’s best known as the man behind last year’s dumpster-fire Suicide Squad (which also starred Smith) – whose background as a naval officer has seen him pen or helm several movies about law officers, starting with his Hollywood-breakout Training Day in 2001, lean years in between that gave us Dark Blue, S.W.A.T. (both in 2003), and Street Kings (2008), followed by his most critically-acclaimed venture, End of Watch, in 2012. Each of those films have also incorporated street gangs, morally dubious cops, and flashy gun violence.

The first official trailer for Netflix’s Bright

Bright is similar in that regard, embedding real-world LA crime problems and the distrust of police into its narrative, but it’s also got fantasy boots to fill. That means weaving in lore about an almost mythical past that saw humans, orcs and elves at each other’s throats two millennia ago, which involved a Dark Lord, powerful beings, and magical items. The plot riffs on Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter in a foregrounding way, just enough to convince you that stranger things have happened, but is still restricted to give Smith’s character – a human – a fighting chance.

The premise of Bright centres on a young elf named Tikka (Lucy Fry), one of a select titular few who has the ability to hold and use a magic wand – an object that can grant wishes, (seemingly) has the power of a nuclear weapon, and kills any non-Bright who holds it – and ends up in the custody of Ward and Jakoby after they are dispatched to an address. Ward’s call for backup from his precinct doesn’t go as planned, and he’s forced to go on the run with Jakoby and Tikka to keep the wand away from the hands of literally everyone: corrupt cops, street thugs, and criminal organisations.

That gives Ayer the licence to stage his film like a video game, comprising of ridiculous shootout routines one after the another where the fleeing trio is always under-powered, be it a car chase, bar evacuation, dance club hold-up, gas station face-off, or a fist-fight in an apartment. Through it all, the film explores the budding friendship between Ward and Jaokoby, spliced with gallows-type humour – Smith is natural at infusing comedy into the direst of moments, and he keeps denying that they’re becoming friends – and intercut with scenes that develop Bright’s fantasy world.

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Noomia Rapace as Leilah in a still from Netflix’s Bright
Photo Credit: Matt Kennedy/Netflix

That involves introducing Noomi Rapace as Leilah, a dark elf who is part of an Illuminati-type group that’s trying to bring back a Dark Lord, alongside some of her expert close-quarters combat followers, plus two detectives who work for the FBI’s magic division, an elf (Édgar Ramírez) and a human (Ike Barinholtz), who are supposed to be in-charge of any wand-related troubles. The latter two are there to service the lore and hence don’t feature much, but even though Rapace is supposed to be the main villain, she’s hardly part of the film.

Bright’s choice to feature Ward as the chief protagonist and keep Jakoby as his sidekick in-training is also misguided. Zootopia worked precisely because it chose to stick with the diversity hire, the one’s who discriminated against. Jakoby is hated by his own kind because he’s not Blooded – having a pair of lower jaw teeth that jut out like fangs – and works with humans in the police force. Orcs look down on him, and humans revile him for belonging to another side, assuming he’s orc first and cop second.

Bright instead follows his slightly specist partner, Smith’s Ward. He isn’t as open about his distaste for working with an orc unlike some of his co-workers, but that doesn’t mean Ward doesn’t repeatedly try to get rid of Jakoby in the early going. Ward and Jakoby’s relationship is also tainted by an earlier event, and the film would benefit if it gave more emphasis to Edgerton’s orc. That would allow the film to be more powerful in what it’s trying to convey, but Bright fails to understand that.

One big obvious reason would be Smith’s casting, who is a much more recognisable star. Edgerton has as much screen presence as Smith, but Jakoby doesn’t get the necessary build up moments that help you connect and relate with the character. Those are reserved for Ward, whose family and background situation is given ample time in the opening minutes.

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Joel Edgerton as Jakoby, Lucy Fry as Tikka, and Will Smith as Ward in a still from Netflix’s Bright
Photo Credit: Matt Kennedy/Netflix

The film also grapples with a lot of social themes, which aren’t really addressed. There are multiple parallels and allegories here, but in many ways, the problems faced by African-Americans today have been grafted onto orcs. They have it much worse in the film in many ways, being openly reviled in a way that wouldn’t fly in our version of 2017. At the same time, the film’s actual African-Americans don’t seem to have it any better than our reality, implying that humans have kept themselves divided through the ages, even while living alongside two other sentient species on Earth.

Mistrust, class struggles, and social mobility appear to be important themes for Bright in the early going, and it indulges the idea of exploring the symptoms and consequences of that for the first half hour. But it eventually gives that up, and turns into a Will Smith-movie, which is to say a generic guns-blazing action thriller. Bright could make for a fascinating Netflix TV series if it was more interested and serious about its themes, but Ayer doesn’t seem to have those ambitions. It also doesn’t help that his vision for gun violence resembles that of a 7-year-old, with characters needlessly emptying entire cartridges as scare tactics, causing more pain for the set designer than our protagonists.

After an opening half-hour that gave us hope that the film wouldn’t descend into a bullet-a-minute adventure unlike some of Ayer’s previous dubious work – the posters designed by Netflix are putting Suicide Squad front and centre, which is hilarious and sad because it depletes confidence, instead of inspiring any – Bright turns into a chase story that keeps throwing new unimaginative problems at our heroes, and never bothers to deepen any of its themes and allegories.

It’s perfectly happy in being a big budgeted action flick – Netflix reportedly spent $90 million (about Rs. 577 crore) to produce it – but it doesn’t have the goofy swagger of Men in Black, nor the grittiness of End of Watch, and ends up just wallowing without saying much.


iOS 11.0.3 Update Released: Fixes Audio, Haptic Bugs for iPhone 7 Users and More

iOS 11.0.3 Update Released: Fixes Audio, Haptic Bugs for iPhone 7 Users and More


  • Apple has released iOS 11.0.3, the third update since iOS 11 release
  • iOS 11.0.3 addresses two issues that some users were facing
  • Apple has not addressed several other issues users have reported

Apple on Wednesday released iOS 11.0.3, the third update since it released iOS 11 to the public last month. Being a point update, iOS 11.0.3 doesn’t bring any new features, but it does offer several improvements. It is meant for the iPhone 5s and above models, iPad Air and above, iPad mini 2 and above, as well as the iPod touch 6th generation.

iPhone 7 Plus and iPhone 7 users who were facing audio and haptic feedback should see the problem resolved after downloading and installing the iOS 11.0.3 software update. The company says it has also addressed an issue with iPhone 6s where some displays were unresponsive because they were not serviced with genuine parts.

The company however warns that non-genuine replacement displays many have compromised visual quality and may not be fully functional. In comparison, Apple-certified screen repairs are performed by trusted experts who use genuine parts.

If you’re running iOS 11, iOS 11.0.1, or iOS 11.0.2, then your device is eligible for the free update to iOS 11.0.3. You can access the update from Settings -> General -> Software Update. You should make sure you are on a Wi-Fi connection, and back up your device before proceeding.

Even as Apple attempts to fix some of the issues people are having since installing iOS 11, there are still some known issues that the company is yet to address. Many users have complained about shorter battery life and an issue where they get a ton of text notification when they reboot the device. Apple has not acknowledged either of the issues yet.

If you have not upgraded to iOS 11 yet, you might find the new customisable Control Centre, and the redesigned lock screen experience interesting enough. The company has also redesigned the App Store and Siri now has a more natural voice. Additionally, iOS 11 brings support for HEVC and HEIF codecs that use improved algorithms to compress the file size of videos and images.


Xiaomi Says It Shipped More Than 10 Million Smartphones Last Month

Xiaomi Says It Shipped More Than 10 Million Smartphones Last Month


  • Xiaomi sold more than 10 million smartphones in India
  • It’s a record performance for the company
  • The company also reached a milestone in India

September was a big month for Xiaomi. The Chinese smartphone maker shipped more than 10 million smartphones last month across all the markets where it operates, Xiaomi’s chief executive officer Lei Jun said.

A thrilled and happy Jun, who shared the announcement, thanked employees and partners. The company also reached a major milestone in India. Roughly three years after entering the nation, Xiaomi’s vice president and India head Manu Kumar Jain said the company had shipped more than 25 million smartphones in the country.

The big jump in sales comes as people in South Asian countries including India begin to prepare for the festival season. In India, for instance, Amazon India and Flipkart have been cashing in on the festive season, giving customers lucrative discounts with sales past and sales to come. Xiaomi said last month it had sold more than one million handsets in just two days, a major improvement over its performance in the country last year, when it took 18 days to sell one million smartphones.

Even as Xiaomi has always been known as a company which plays very aggressively, offering some of the best hardware at the price point, the company has appeared more focused in the recent months. It recently launched the Mi Mix 2, a bezel-less smartphone, and Mi A1, its first Android One smartphone for markets like India.

The recent development will help the company better compete with Chinese smartphone maker Huawei, which recently posted better sales than Apple. The company shipped north of 73 million smartphones in the first two quarters of this year, averaging more than 12 million handset shipments in a month. According to marketing research firm Strategy Analytics, Huawei shipped 38.4 million handsets in Q2 2017, while Oppo shipped 29.5 million handsets. In comparison, Xiaomi had shipped 23.16 million handsets in the quarter that ended in June.


U.S. Spends Less as Other Nations Invest More in Education

U.S. spending on education declined from 2010 to 2014. (Hero Images/Getty Images)

The world’s developed nations are placing a big bet on education investments, wagering that highly educated populaces will be needed to fill tomorrow’s jobs, drive healthy economies and generate enough tax receipts to support government services.

Bucking that trend is the United States.

U.S. spending on elementary and high school education declined 3 percent from 2010 to 2014 even as its economy prospered and its student population grew slightly by 1 percent, boiling down to a 4 percent decrease in spending per student. That’s according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual report of education indicators, released last week.

Over this same 2010 to 2014 period, education spending, on average, rose 5 percent per student across the 35 countries in the OECD. In some countries it rose at a much higher rate. For example, between 2008 and 2014, education spending rose 76 percent in Turkey, 36 percent in Israel, 32 percent in the United Kingdom and 27 percent in Portugal. For some countries, it’s been a difficult financial sacrifice as their economies stalled after the 2008 financial crisis. To boost education budgets, other areas were slashed. Meanwhile, U.S. local, state and federal governments chose to cut funding for the schoolhouse.

“Overall (U.S.) education spending has been cut quite severely in the last few years,” said Andreas Schleicher, who heads the OECD directorate that issued the report. “That clearly puts constraints on the environment you have for learning.”

How lower spending constrains learning is subtle. Schleicher has pointed out for years that there isn’t a clear relationship between money spent and student outcomes. Some countries that spend far less than the United States on education consistently outshine this country on international tests.
And even with the decline in spending, the United States still spends more per student than most countries. The United States spent $11,319 per elementary school student in 2014, compared with the OECD average of $8,733, and $12,995 educating each high school student, compared with an average of $10,106 per student across the OECD.

The way that high-performing countries achieve more with less money is by spending it differently than the United States does. For example, larger class sizes are common in Asia, with more resources instead spent on improving teaching quality. During the period of U.S. budget cuts to education, there weren’t major changes to how the money was allocated.

“If you simply cut spending with your existing spending choices, you will end with less for less,” said Schleicher, citing school districts in Oklahoma that cut the number of school days to four from five each week.

One big way that the U.S. education system differs from others is in asking teachers to carry a heavy teaching load. U.S. teachers teach close to 1,000 hours a year, compared with 600 hours in Japan and 550 hours in Korea. In these countries, teachers might specialize in one course, such as Algebra I, and teach it only a few periods a day. The rest of their work week is spent on other activities, such as preparing lessons or giving feedback to students.

“In the U.S., teachers have less time for professional development, teacher collaboration, lesson preparation, working with students individually,” said Schleicher. “In other countries, teachers have a lot of time to watch each other’s lessons, design lessons and evaluate lessons.”

By contrast, the U.S. system spends a lot of resources on keeping class sizes relatively small, and hiring more teachers for them.

The OECD’s data echoes what the National Center for Education Statistics in Washington, D.C., has been tracking. It found that education spending for elementary and high school students had fallen for several years in a row from 2009 to 2013, due to a combination of federal, state and local budget cuts. Spending rose a smidgen during

the 2013-14 school year, the most recent year for which data is available, but, after adjusting for inflation, it is still well below the 2009 peak.

Last week’s U.S. Census report showed that middle class incomes are rising. One could argue that the economy is flourishing just fine with less spending on schools. But education is an 18-year, long-term investment, from pre-K through college. It could be that we won’t see our economic prospects smashed from this divestment for many years down the road.

This column was written by Jill Barshay and produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.