As we tremble on the brink of turning the calendar over to a new year, I’ve been doing a little thinking about the future, as we are all wont to do at this milestone in time. But before I got into the deep waters, I came home from work yesterday evening and didn’t want to do much of, well, anything. There was a brief conversation with my husband, and he reminded me that we really wanted to see the latest movie release, Bright. So we grabbed our winter coats, wallets, and packed up into the car to drive the twenty minutes to the nearest cinema….
No, we didn’t. I queued it up on my big monitor (don’t be impressed, it’s a mere 27″ screen!) and we paused it while we went to grab microwave popcorn, soda, and assorted snacks. Then we started the movie while we munched, later curling up on the bed to finish it out. There were a couple of pauses for potty breaks (the dog, too) but we actually watched the whole thing through. And we enjoyed it! I’ll do a bit of a review for writers in a minute, but first: this is the future of entertainment. The two of us have seen movies on the big screen together a grand total of twice, in the five years we’ve been together. I’ve taken the kids to a handful more, and let the kids go on their own to a few more than that. But still, we’re talking about us as a couple. Twice in five years (Guardians of the Galaxy one and two, for the curious) is hardly box-office success. We just don’t have the time, or really, the inclination. We’re homebodies. So Bright being available on Netflix was ideal for us. On-demand entertainment at home, at our leisure, and it was a very well-done production? It used to be that if a movie bypassed the big screens straight to the small screen it was because it was a failure. Bright disproves that old model.
Just like Indie Authors are proving you don’t have to get lucky with a book published by the Big Five to be a good storyteller and writer. The future is bright, I’m telling you. Bookstores are vanishing from the face of the earth, sure, and it’s a sad thing. I have an indie used book store I love and visit as often as is practical. But the last time we went in a Barnes and Nobles it was so I could buy a frappucino for my daughters and I. It was the closest Starbucks, and they regard that as a big treat. Barnes and Nobles is on the Motley Fool’s deathwatch for 2018, and after it’s gone, there aren’t any other national chains I can think of. Perhaps it’s time for the return of Indie bookstores.
Or it could just be that the dynamic of how and where we buy and consume entertainment is changing entirely. I don’t think that the advent of streaming high-quality movies will kill the cinema. There is still something about seeing the huge moving picture that is a more immersive experience, and I believe that Bright did appear in theaters. I’d go see it again on the big screen. Kids like my teens still regard going to the movies as a social event. It’s not convenient for me, the adult, though, and that’s why I’m so excited to see that Netflix already plans to do it again. More, please! And less of the regurgitated Hollywood crap while you’re at it…
And now, for the review. I started watching this movie knowing pretty much what to expect: Urban Fantasy in a dystopian setting with stereotypical racial tensions between humans, elves, and orcs. That’s not new – I don’t think it was even new when Tolkein did it, although he’s certainly the best known early Fantasy writer. The movie did a very good job of setting visually, and in the first interactions with the characters on-screen. As writers, we don’t get that easy way out of painting a picture for the readers, but there’s certainly good things here about showing, not telling, to build a world and develop characters from the first. The movie drops us right into this fantastic world that resembles Los Angeles in many ways, and it works neatly. There’s one bit where the two buddy cops (this is, by the way, mostly a buddy cop movie at the heart of it, and a fine example of that) are driving to work and they take a shortcut through the Elf enclave with it’s restricted access simply to show us how the other side lives.
I’m trying not to spoil the movie. If you have Netflix, you really ought to check it out. It’s got a lot of violence and language, I’ll warn you that this isn’t kid friendly. But the story provides plenty of conflict and resolutions, without straying too much into ‘it’s magic!’ in order to do so. You wouldn’t know, watching this, that it was produced by anything other than the usual blockbuster companies, the visuals are clean, powerfully done, and not at all cheesy. The banter between the buddies is occasionally very funny, and sometimes not, but that’s also because the orc is more than a little literal and over-earnest. As he should be: that’s in character. Will Smith as the cynical human partner is a great piece of casting. He’s a little older, a little more tired, and a lot less patient than his enthusiastic character in Men in Black, and I really enjoyed the work he’s done here in Bright. The First Reader’s comment was that the fairies are spot-on.
The movie has a satisfying resolution (if somewhat predictable, but really… well, watch it for yourself) but leaves it wide open for a sequel, which I believe is already planned. I’m looking forward to it, and to other movies like this being made available straight to the convenience of my own bedroom. Books, movies, music, I can have it all without leaving the comfort of my own room. It’s a good thing I love photography and hiking, or I’d become a recluse!
I cut the Cable eight years ago exactly, and haven’t regretted it since. Between Netflix and Amazon Video, I have almost as much film material as I care to watch (not being a big television fan) and mostly, it’s been for the kids. I’m not alone, either. Netflix has become a huge cultural phenomenon. Now, this is the future. Books as well as movies have cut the ties to the past, and the future is here.