I try not to judge a film before I see it based on the director, but I won’t lie; I was awfully worried when I saw the name David Ayer attached to this project. He created one of the absolute worst movies I’ve seen in years, and easily one of DC’s worst cinematic universe films with “Suicide Squad.” The idea of him trying such a unique concept film with Will Smith for a Netflix movie didn’t calm any more of my dread tingling nerves either. It doesn’t help that Will Smith was just as much a part of the problem with “Suicide Squad” as Ayer was. Smith’s name hasn’t meant much since he did “After Earth,” and nothing I’ve seen him in or seen him attempt to do has cleaned up that blotched up record. Still, this can’t be worse than “Suicide Squad”…can it?
Set in a world where humans and mystical fantasy creatures live/work side by side; such as orcs, fairies, elves and goblins, a powerful weapon (a magic wand) is being sought after by everyone and everything bloodthirsty and power-hungry enough to kill for it. Two uncooperative cops: Officer Daryl Ward (Will Smith) and Orc Officer Nick Jakoby (Joel Edgerton) are paired up and put on the case. Now they must work together, deal with their outer and inner racist issues (as well as society’s) and find this weapon before it falls into the wrong hands and causes the deaths of countless innocents in a magic-fueled massacre.
The first thing that came to mind the minute I heard about this movie was “Alien Nation.” It’s the same concept but with aliens instead of orcs and elves; same issues are covered, same cop/partner dynamic and everything. Blending magical creatures and mystical wands with the modern human world is a fascinating exciting mix, and it would have been a unique project for a talented director to handle it. Unfortunately, David Ayer is the one handling it and barely starting into the film; you can already tell he’s making a mess out of it. Guns and wands just don’t make sense and here; they don’t mix well enough for anyone to take it seriously enough. People got spooked seeing or talking about a wand and when you see a bunch of cops with guns in a modern suburbia, it just loses its luster and feels intrusively out of place.
This film doesn’t feel as cohesively balanced with its alternate world/species like “Roger Rabbit” did and looks and feels more like the obnoxiously dark and forgettable film “Cool World” instead. Racism is the painfully obvious centerpiece of this film’s story. Smith and the rest of the world struggle to tolerate and accept orcs and magical creatures and most of the time treat them like crap or outright lashes against them. It’s a concept that requires minimal effort and piggybacks more effectively executed prejudice fueled films (like “District 9” and “Django Unchained”) rather than doing anything original. This is a generic R rated cop film that happens to have ogres and wizards; none of the fantasy elements elevate this movie past mediocrity.
Another problem is the film’s profound use of swearing. The dialog plays out like a piss poor Tarantino script; dropping F-bombs left and right and flashing enough gun violence until it proves how cool it is. In reality, this film is trying too hard in all the wrong areas (the violence and R rated material) and not hard enough in all the right areas (developing characters and making the world/story work more successfully.) Will Smith plays Will Smith; it’s no different than his roles in “Bad Boys”, “Suicide Squad,” or “I, Robot.” He’s not awful, but he’s just not what he used to be, and his performance here makes it seem like he’s visibly aware of it.