There’s a cornucopia of things to dislike about Netflix’s orc cop movie Bright like the writing, the plot, and the way it literally uses demons as stand-ins for people of color to make a point about systemic racism. But from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ perspective, the only people who weren’t really here for the film were critics and the only reason critics didn’t like it was because they didn’t get it.
During this week’s Netflix earnings call, Hastings spoke briefly about the polarized reaction to the film that many-a-critic (like myself) found beyond lacking. Hastings explained that as negative as the movie’s reviews have been, Netflix’s plans to roll Bright out internationally haven’t changed largely because of the number of people who are apparently watching it:
“The critics are pretty disconnected from the mass appeal. Considering we’re moving internationally at this point, and most of those critical reviews are English language and just U.S.”
Hastings’ comments about Bright are a classic example of a studio executive (or any filmmaker really) making that ridiculous argument that critics somehow can’t be fans and that “real fans” are the only people capable of appreciating films. That’s simply not the case. The fact of the matter is that Bright fails to accomplish many of the goals it so clearly had and many critics and fans have called it out because of that.
A big-budget action movie about orcs, faeries, and elves all living in a racially-stratified Los Angeles could be an absolutely fantastic and clever movie that blends social commentary with fantastical visuals. Bright is not that movie. Bright is a movie that relies on dated, racist stereotypes for a couple of cheap laughs and a plot that fizzles out towards the end of its second act.
Netflix has never made a point of publishing its viewership numbers, but there’s no reason to doubt that a lot of people have watched or are going to watch Bright in the coming months. Hastings also said, “If people are watching this movie and loving it, that is the measurement of success.”
Here’s the thing though—just because a lot of people are watching something doesn’t mean that that something is good. People can’t have an opinion on said film until they watch it obviously. And sometimes “Hey, you wanna Netflix and chill?” actually means “Hey, you wanna come over and watch this garbage fire of a movie that just popped up onto my queue?”