I’ve been excited for this to come out since it was announced earlier this year. With superhero movies entering their tenth year of solid box-office dominance (I’m marking Iron Man and The Dark Knight as the start of the era), people are already starting to burn out on the genre, despite each new Marvel flick being worth the hype. (DC has had fewer hits than misses.)
Nevertheless, as a longtime fan of the urban fantasy literary genre, I’m excited to see something make it to…well, not the Big Screen, but a high-budget production, with two strong leads in Will Smith and Joel Edgerton. And I didn’t realize Noomi Rapace was in it too.
I’m going to watch it tonight, and randomly thought I might stream-of-consciousness review it, to anyone who’s curious. Here we go!
Oh, and OBVIOUS SPOILER WARNING.
–Opening credits were ace. It’s filmed as though from the passenger seat of a car, driving through graffiti’d parts of Los Angeles, and the graffiti itself is on par with the high quality street murals I saw all over Spain. In a fantasy movie, you’d normally get a long prologue about prophecies and whatever. Not here. They used drive-bys of street art from the POV of a beat cop to perfectly set the tone.
–Okay, we have humans somewhere in the middle, elves are the higher class, and orcs are basically ghetto trash. Looks like there are fairies in this world too, but they’re regarded as pests.
–5 minutes in, half a dozen F-bombs. Eesh. There are other words, you guys.
–Good glimpse into Daryl Ward (Will Smith)’s home life. Nick Jakoby (his orc partner) is immediately likable. Easy banter between the two of them, over everyday stuff like the lawn. One of the quickest ways to make fantasy elements normal in an urban fantasy is to treat them like they’re urban, not fantasy.
–Ha. Orcs like heavy metal. Does that trope predate the orcs in Larry Correia’s books?
–I love Nick’s social awkwardness. I get the impression it’s a cultural thing, among orcs. He just goes there.
–Daryl makes himself very unlikable with how he treats Nick. I’m getting the sense that that is supposed to be part of the story–a cop with a minority partner who he doesn’t like, and blames for his injury…coming to rely on him.
–Elftown. Very garish. Like Beverly Hills and Hollywood had a lovechild that kicked out the riffraff.
–Centaur cop! Nice!
–Still heavy on the F-bombs. Calm down peeps.
–Hood orcs. Nice. Superstrength is one thing, but you can’t lift a truck by the grill like that. The latch that holds it down wouldn’t support 2/3rds of the vehicle’s weight. Should have had him grab it by the bumper.
–The tension is real with Ward and Jakoby. Going back to the “urban vs fantasy” thing, they’re playing this real. If they were both humans, and Ward was a pretty committed racist, and Jakoby was a minority on the police force, their demeanor would be exactly the same. That said, it’s hard to watch. Usually when Will Smith is on screen, you like him. Right now, in Act 1, you don’t.
–Nasty homeless man prophecy. Okay, foreshadowing…
–“Half the defensive lines in the NFL are orkish.” That’s a story prompt right there, son.
–The more we see of this LAPD, the more we’re to take it as a gritty, grungy, everyone-is-a-jaded-scumbag organization. Hard to find heroes in that setting.
–Nice little expository interrogation scene. Interesting stuff though.
–Nick can smell blood in a hood house, but not a body that was burnt to a crisp?
–Whatever that crazy magical chick was, though…nice effect!
–The cops show up, boom, more everyone-is-a-scumbag syndrome. I like seeing Ward changing in response to a new factor, e.g., the magic wand. This dude does have one or two points on his moral compass that differ from everyone else’s.
–Of all the jerk cops in this department, I hate that dude with the mustache the most, and that includes Sergeant Margaret Cho. I bet he dies first.
–Okay, this face-off between Ward and Jakoby, in the wake of the dilemma with the other cops…this is good. Gooooood drama. Still too many F-bombs though, and that’s coming from a blue collar construction guy.
–HOOOOOOOOOLLLY CRAP!!! When Ward turns!!! HOOOOOOOOOOLY CRAP!!!!
–The Altamira cholo boss in the wheelchair is a…bit of a stretch, but his powerslide in the street was funny.
–Nice gunfight car chase. Excellent crash scene.
–Evil Mustache Cop doesn’t die first. But he does die.
–Oof…brutal throat-cutting. Ick.
–Oh come on, you can’t just randomly show us a DRAGON flying over LA in an establishing shot and then do nothing with it! I want moar dragon! MOAR DRAGON!
–Yuck. The baby…that was not cool.
–MAN ALIVE these cholos have terrible aim. How many rounds does that shotgun have? I think Ward has outfired his Protagonist Magazine at this point.
–Grungy orkish butcher shop naturally has an open door into a grungy orkish night club.
–Aaaaaaand obligatory boobs. Come on, people.
–Oh noes, how did we lose the only white-skinned-white-clothed-white-haired chick in a black-clad moshpit?
–Lol. Rival gang breaks in with machine guns and it is indistinguishable from club music in Orctown.
–Other than that…surprisingly anticlimactic.
–The human anti-magic Fed looks like a ginger John Goodman.
–Strip club scene. Ugh.
–Sweet jeepers, these are not Tolkien’s elves.
–Good arc for Ward, when he and Jakoby figure things out between themselves. Knew it had to happen but it’s really nice that it finally did.
–Ninja elf fight!
–Man, Ward’s Protagonist Armor is LEGIT
–Hmmm. A bit of a stretch, but for the purposes of the story, I will accept this gas station explosion.
–I have to think that if orcs are strong enough to lift up a truck, then any effort put into a gang beating would probably pulverize someone after a punch or two. Not even Ward’s Protagonist Armor can take that, and these orcs are grunting.
–Jakoby’s good deed comes home. Not a unique plot device, but it works.
–Whoa, until it didn’t.
–Okay…how did she have that up her sleeve? Hidden? And why wait until AFTER Jakoby snuffs it?
–Ah, that’s why. Orc Jesus, ladies and gentlemen.
–Heavy, heavy, instantaneous foreshadowing with the homemade bomb. That was pretty forced for a gimmick.
–Jakoby with the Protagonist Armor! Only this comes in the form of Villains Not Killing Him As Fast.
–I don’t know what the heck that fridge is made out of, but they should make airplanes out of it.
–Tikka’s blood goatee: not the hottest thing in the world.
–Of course they could only have ever killed Leilah The Evil Version of Legolas right next to the Ghetto Refrigerator Of Peripheral Resurrection. Not your fault, guys. Could happen to anybody.
–Man, they really nailed the zealotry gaze on these elves.
–Oooh, they got her monologuing!
–You saw it coming! MAGIC BLACK MAAAAAAAAAAN!!! #TROPE #TROPE #TROPE #TROPE
–Great hero moment there at the end.
–Yup. Will Smith is still Will Smith.
–Nick’s a hoot. Perfectly played the debriefing scene right there at the end. “Oh, I see what this is.”
Okay well, overall I’d give it a high B rating. I do hope it opens the gate for more urban fantasy. I just hope they don’t feel the need to be so excessive with the graphic content. No, I don’t care if a lot of successful urban fantasy has that in print, don’t @ me. It’s not a help to the story or the medium, even if there’s some stuff, there doesn’t need to be as much. Blah. </rant.>