Ever wonder what would happen if Superman crashed to Earth, but he didn’t have someone like Pa or Ma Kent to guide him along in life?
Brightburn has wondered that. Brightburn has an answer, too — and it’s not a pretty one.
From The Hive director David Yarovesky, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island writers Brian and Mark Gunn and Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn, Brightburn is a new movie that’s hoping to bring in both comic-book and horror fans together for this one event.
For those keeping score at home, this isn’t the first time we’ve had a superhero horror film movie. Hellboy, Darkman, Ghost Rider, Glass or even, hell, Venom have all either dabbled or lived in this genre.
This is the first time, if memory serves, that we’ve ever had a superhero horror be this referential to other franchises, however. From start to finish, Brightburn is paying homage to and, in some sequences, directly calling out Superman/Man of Steel — which is a pretty clever way to spin this thing, if you ask me.
Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) doesn’t remember the day that the spaceship he arrived in came crashing down to earth. His parents, Kyle (David Denman) and Tori Breyer (Elizabeth Banks) want to keep it that way, too, as they decided to hide that spaceship away and just tell their son that he was adopted.
To be fair, if I had parents as dumb as Brandon, I’d probably turn evil, too.
Their reasoning, they eventually explain, is because they just don’t want their son to go through all the trauma that would come with a revelation like that. Imagine being 12-years-old and learning that you’re unlike anyone else on this planet because you’re a literal alien and, for all you know, you might be a danger to this world. All the therapy in the world wouldn’t be able to solve those problems.
So, they do what is probably the most irresponsible thing that could be done by burying all of that and hoping these issues don’t resurface some day.
Brandon, inevitably, begins to learn the truth about his origin and, predictably, doesn’t take it to well. He simultaneously starts to discover that he is indeed different from everyone else as he has powers of strength, flight and a bunch of other nondescript abilities.
Feeling betrayed and lied to, Brandon turns on those who raised him and his whole hometown as he decides it’s about to just let the whole world burn.
And I guess nobody is going to do anything about it? Like, okay, by the time Brandon turns evil, it’s probably too late, but did nobody think it wise to step in before that? The government — and Brandon goes to school, so the government would indeed know about him — was just okay with this alien being raised by a Kansas couple, no questions asked? They didn’t, I don’t know, run some tests or something on him?
I get that angle has been done to death and that Brandon’s legal documents might not be the most cinematic thing, but Brightburn glosses over all of that so quick that one just can’t help but wonder.
Which gets at the larger problem with Brightburn, actually — the film is all concept with no follow-through.
There’s not a horror fan in the world out there who would tell you this isn’t a great idea for a movie. At some point, we’ve all asked ourselves questions like, “What would happen if Superman went rogue?” or “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a movie about all the characters who got dusted in Avengers: Infinity War and it was about them living some kind of existential, psychedelic nightmare during those five years?”
Certain comic runs have explored questions like this but, up to this point, we haven’t really gotten to see it play out on the big screen in this fashion.
Yarovesky is having a lot of fun bringing that to life, too. He’s created an ultra-violent and gory (probably more so than you’re expecting) horror ride that, yes, might play on some classic tropes, but is still creepy and tense nonetheless (with some great costume work, too).
Everything outside that script, however, falls apart pretty quickly when you have a script that just feels like a big ole’ pot of nothing.
We, as the audience, know that Kyle and Tori aren’t supposed to be that likable of characters. If they were good, noble people, Brandon wouldn’t turn out the way he does, right? Yet, the movie is determined to make them seem like good, noble people — until suddenly, they’re not.
That’s a tricky line to walk, I’ll admit, as we don’t want to spend the whole movie hating these two characters, but they’re so vapid and dismissive that you spend the whole movie getting annoyed with how they’re treated in such a back-and-forth. Banks and Denman give fine performances (I’d call Denman’s casting inspired, even), but they just don’t have a lot to work with.
The other characters don’t fare much better. Dunn, too, is fine in the movie, but his character is pretty clichéd and not altogether that interesting. Breaking Bad’s Matt Jones and The Oath’s Meredith Hagner play Tori and Kyle’s relatives, and represent an even more aggressively dumb version of the couple to the point where you just kind of want to throw something at them after awhile.
In the end, Brightburn is like Man of Steel in more ways than one in which they represent a pretty shaky start for what the studios had hoped would kick off a new franchise (yes, they set up sequels for Brightburn during a mid-credits scene and it’s….fine). The really genre-y bits, I’d say, work well here, making this a much better horror film compared to something like The Curse of La Llorona.
All the same, the script surrounding those moments just feels so empty that Brightburn never really elevates to anything beyond that. What could have been such a unique spin on the superhero genre just winds up being something of a pointless exercise (even though, who are we kidding, I’d still totally watch a ‘What if AQUAMAN turned evil?’ film if that was in the works).
Watch the trailer for Brightburn here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the film!
'Brightburn' - Dark Avengers assemble [REVIEW]5