What if Superman choose to be evil instead of good? The question serves as the fundamental basis for the individual physique of a superhero/superhuman as well as the premise for the movie Brightburn. By toiling with that idea and running with it, the film’s end result is something perplexing, but the feature makes up for its shortcomings in an intriguing cinematic blend of superhero nuances and horror violence.
Dealing with the hardships of infertility for a long time, Tori Breyer (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman) have their prayers suddenly answered when an alien spacecraft crash lands on their Kansas farm, carrying a humanoid infant inside. Raising the child as their own, Tori and Kyle try to give their son, Brandon (Jackson A Dunn), a normal and comfortable life, watching him grow into an intelligent youth. However, on his 12th birthday, things began to change for Brandon, who suddenly starts to display superhuman abilities and a malevolent darkness growing within. While Kyle recognises this brewing evil within his son, Tori can’t condemn the child she wanted so badly, unwilling to the accept the horrific reality of Brandon’s unexpected, sinister rampage.
Produced by Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn and directed by David Yarovesky, Brightburn utilises the whole “Clark Kent/Superman” storyline setup and plays with that idea of “what if Superman became evil” in the character of Brandon. With that particular premise, the feature showcases the “birth” of a superhero (or rather super-villain) and the visceral horror elements that he causes throughout the movie. Yarovesky definitely does a good job in the horror department by presenting several scenes in brutal fashion that will have viewers squirming in their seats. In addition, Brightburn is a breezy endeavour and never gets sidetracked with unimportant or pointless subplots. The result is a fast-paced feature film that has one foot in the superhero genre and one in the horror world. It’s definitely odd at first, but the movie quickly finds its groove.
What Brightburn lacks is the precision of its own narrative stance and fully examining the context of it to its full potential. In a nutshell, the picture falls short in substance in several certain areas, especially in the psychological understanding or even storytelling narration of a depiction showing Brandon’s “turn to the dark side”. There is a reason for it, but the film’s script takes the easy way out in presenting how the boy becomes evil. Thus, Brightburn fails to examine the crucial “turning point” of a superhuman individual, of whether he becomes good or bad by either inner desire or exterior influences that aid in that particular transformation. It’s a shame because the movie really could have delved into the idea; choosing more of a “plot point” rather than a wholesome character development means Yarovesky never unlocks the story’s full potential – perhaps the limited production budget prevented him from enlarging the film’s presentation beyond that certain aspect.
The relatively small cast actually does a good job, with Banks, Dunn and Denman giving great performances. Of course, the Breyers’ initial setup makes unmistakable allusions to Superman/Clark Kent’s upbringing with the Kent family (including a farm in the rural Midwest), but the acting talents do certainly elevate the stereotypical clichés to make the characters interesting in various aspects of dilemma, anger, creepiness and pure horrific shock.
The big question is, is Brightburn the start of a new superhero horror cinematic franchise (the movie hints at potential spin-offs and sequels) or is it just a “one and done” endeavour. It’s hard to say, but James Gunn has stated he would like to do more. So, there’s a possibly that the dark tale of Brandon Breyer isn’t quite over. However, as it stands, Brightburn offers solid horror elements, a decent enough superhero origin tale and an unapologetic and entertaining blending of its two genres for a gleefully dark turn of a superhero.
Brightburn is released nationwide on 19th June 2019.
Watch the trailer for Brightburn here: