On the Bright side
Is Netflix the future of the entertainment industry? We meet up with the cast of their biggest film to date, a production worth $100 million, to find out more
Hollywood is paralysed, like a deer caught in the headlights. Primarily because it’s been garnering headlines for all the wrong reasons: whitewashed casting, sexual misconduct by supposed ‘luminaries’, gender wage gap, and lack of original content (how else does one explain nine King Kong remakes!)
Unlike the past few decades, they aren’t really ‘flourishing’ on the business front either. American studio behemoths, across film and television, are struggling to cope with disruptive global players like Netflix.
Shortly after Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings announced that his company is acquiring Millarworld --whose founder Mark Millar is the creative force behind hits like Captain America: Civil War, Kick-Ass, and Logan -- Walt Disney Studios shared that it will end its distribution deal with the aforementioned digital video titan in 2019, and subsequently launch its own standalone subscription service. Following this, Disney hurriedly gobbled up 21st Century Fox for a whopping $52.4 billion -- the largest-ever merger of two showbiz companies which essentially translates to the fact that more than 40 per cent of upcoming theatrical releases from the US will probably belong to one single studio.
David vs Goliath
However, Hastings remains unperturbed as Netflix is about to launch its biggest film to date in the same month as The Post, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and The Shape of Water. Titled Bright, this $100 million production is directed by Suicide Squad’s David Ayer. “In many ways, Netflix is the future of the business,” he states, elaborating, “Bright will reach over 100 million subscribers in 190 countries at the same moment. No other film, of this scale, has hit the world in such a manner. As a filmmaker, I feel like a pioneer and I’m fascinated to see the reactions.”
While no one doubts the streaming giant’s capabilities when it comes to making quality television shows, their attempts at crafting original film (save Okja) have been unimpressive so far. But can this urban-fantasy tentpole--starring Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, and Noomi Rapace, in an R-rated alternate world where humans live alongside Orcs, Fairies, Elves, and other fantastical beings--finally make a dent in the global film industry? Smith, once considered one of the world’s most-bankable actor and still the only individual to have eleven consecutive movies gross over $150 million internationally, certainly seems to think so.
The Independence Day star plays a human cop named Ward who is forced to work alongside Jakoby (Edgerton), the first Orc to enrol in the police force. The ‘buddy-cop’ plot, set in Downtown Los Angeles, sees Ward and Jakoby set aside their differences and eventually team-up ‘after one bad night’ in their quest to protect a ‘superweapon’ from warring gang-bangers. However, Bright does touch upon subjects like the class segregation, racism, bullying, and dirty cops. “In the movie, the Elves are the 1 per cent, Orcs are an extremely oppressed race, and humans are smashed into the middle of this. This flip of the ‘social ladder’ was one of the major reasons why I wanted to do this film,” shares Smith, as we engage with him at the Mumbai-leg of their promo tour. “Everybody wants to feel like they are better than somebody else. Our individual and collective egos pursue this sense of superiority, and it sometimes manifests as racism, sexism, or nationalism. I never deeply comprehended that perspective, on a spiritual or intellectual level, before playing this character,” he adds. Normally, big-budget films from major studios keep away from such topics as they have apprehensions about not pleasing every demographic and hitting the right numbers. But Ayer tells us that Netflix provided all the resources for what seemed like a free rein as far as content was concerned.
Yet, since they are bypassing theatrical releases, one demographic they may need to please are the ‘geeks’. Staying relevant within pop-culture discourse is one of the major reasons why most shows from the streaming service enjoy longevity. This is probably why the Bright crew have embarked on such a worldwide promotional tour. At the latest edition of San Diego Comic-Con--the mecca for the gaming, cartoon, film, TV, and speculative-obsessed around the world--Edgerton, who was making his ‘Hall-H’ debut learned this the hard way.
Immediately after the trailer debut, old-school fantasy fans and geeks were drawing plot-line parallels to Alien Nation, Zootopia, Shadowrun, District 9, etc. “What we’re looking at with this film is very original, yet, it a fusion of familiar elements. We’re not reinventing the wheel but it’s like we’re presenting a new project for an array of experts on the subject. I respect them, as they are the reason why we have careers.” So, what will the world think of Bright? Find out on December 22.
Netflix plans to spend over $8 billion to create close to 80 original films in 2018 alone. Chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, also reportedly stated that this new barrage of films may include a big-budget picture Martin Scorsese’s gangster movie starring Robert DeNiro called The Irishman.
Meanwhile, after Bright, 49-year-old Will Smith will be seen in Disney’s live-action adaptation of Aladdin as Genie.