Bright, the First Hatewatch-buster
If you have not done so already, do yourself a favor and listen to the Flop House Bright episode. It is two solid hours of mirth and merriment that ranks the podcast’s very finest and funniest episodes, and that is high praise given my love for the show.
I imagine that the We Hate Movies Bright episode is also a gut-buster, although I have not listened to it yet because I need to do so through their Patreon page and not automatically through iTunes. I was not surprised that they broke their rule of only covering movies that are ten years or older because Bright isn’t just another bad movie. It’s a goddamned bad movie event. It snuck in at the very close of 2017 to lay a formidable claim to being the bad movie phenomenon of the year.
As someone who has made bad movies his life and his career, I predictably got infinitely more excited by the film’s buzz being toxic and the reviews scathing than I would have been by good reviews and glowing buzz. As a dude who writes about bad movies and, occasionally, timely things people are actually interested in, I felt like I had to see Bright and write about it as soon as possible.
I was going to post my Scalding Hot Takes/This Looks Terrible! piece on it on a Monday but there was so much (negative) excitement for all things Bright that I went ahead and released the article four days early, to a very nice response.
It makes sense that pretty much my entire context for Bright involves bad movie podcasts, my own love of writing about bad movies and bad movie culture because I think that Bright is at once something ridiculously, even hilariously derivative and second-hand and something utterly new. I think that Bright is our very first Hate-Watchbuster.
Bright certainly is not the first giant blockbuster to be generally regarded as utter crap. Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg have made five of those motherfuckers in the Transformers franchise so far and show no sign of stopping, unfortunately. I suspect a lot of people watch the Transformers movies to make fun of them but in order to do so in a timely fashion you have to pay for tickets to go see a fucking Transformers movie, and secure babysitting and pay for parking and the whole nine yards. It’s a whole big deal. You have to be pretty invested, emotionally, financially and otherwise, to devote an evening out to seeing the new Transformers.
With Bright, the investment is so much lower. You do not leave your house to go see Bright in a movie theater. You don’t have to buy a ticket, or arrange childcare. All you have to do is click a button Netflix is very aggressively about getting you to click, turn off your brain and watch a dumb Will Smith cop movie with Orcs and shit for two ridiculous hours.
You can live-tweet Bright. You can joke about it via E-mail, instant messaging or text. You can arrange a bad movie night with your buddies, in person or virtually. You can celebrate and mock Bright’s awfulness with your friends and the world at large and you don’t need to leave your house or pay money beyond your usual Netflix subscription to do so.
How many of Bright’s fabled 11 million views in its first three days online were ironic? How many of those viewers were watching it for their bad movie-themed podcasts? I know I was.
Netflix’s apparent happiness with Bright’s reception (lots of views, lots of mockery, lots of hype) suggests that they don’t particularly care if subscribers like their movies and programming, only that they experience it.
There’s something both encouraging and depressing about the concept of Hatewatch-busters. Netflix gave us all a big, ninety million dollar lump of coal for Christmas and we repurposed it for our own needs as not just a bad movie but a potential bad movie landmark.
I know I’ve been particularly aggressive about claiming Bright for my own purposes, having replaced a de-contextualized still from Theodore Rex with a similar still from Bright. The image itself amused me, as did the curious symmetry of Theodore Rex and Bright both being weird milestones in non-theatrically released entertainment.
Theodore Rex was the most expensive direct-to-video movie of all time when it was dumped onto video shelves. Bright is so far the most expensive Netflix movie of all time. The big difference is that Theodore Rex’s direct-to-video burial was rightly interpreted as a mark of shame whereas in a rosier scenario Bright skipping the multiplexes might have been hailed as a bold new paradigm shift for blockbuster entertainment.
Instead, Bright has been mocked just like Theodore Rex was. It’s being watched by people wondering how bad it can possibly be. It’s being repurposed by the schadenfreude and bad movie crowd in ways that glean great mocking laughter and joy out of some of the very worst 2017 had to offer, pop-culture wise.
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