“Brightburn” stars Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones, and Meredith Hagner. Released on May 24, 2019, the film is about a couple who discovers that their adoptive child from space has a sinister side.
The film is directed by David Yarovesky, who also directed “The Hive”. Superheroes are known for fighting for those who need saving, but what if there’s a superhero who fights for the opposite of good? What if there’s a being who uses their superpowers for evil and punish those who wronged them? Well, obviously, that would be a “supervillain”, and from what I saw in the trailers, this kid has the makings of being one. This was an interesting film for me to look at not just because of James Gunn’s involvement, but also because of its concept. It had the simplistic ingredients that define a superhero origin story, but it threw in some horror elements as well to make people think twice about super beings with capes. This was something that could’ve been a genuine “game-changer” for the popular superhero genre in terms of storytelling. Unfortunately, it wound up being something that we’ve seen a bunch of times before, and not in a good way.
To summarize the film without giving too much away, it’s a carbon copy of Superman’s origin story in which a farm couple (played by Banks and Denman) finds and raises a mysterious young boy Brandon (Dunn) who fell from the sky. However, instead of becoming a symbol of hope, he becomes a symbol of death as he uses his super powers to brutally kill anyone who treated him like garbage. If you think Superman killing Zod in “Man of Steel” was horrifying, just you wait until you see this guy. Like I said before, the film combines the superhero elements with the horror elements to craft a disturbing, yet clever, take on the subject matter. While it managed to offer some tension-filled moments without overusing the jump scare maneuver, the film fell extremely short of standing out compared to the other superhero films. Instead of being a compelling and character-driven twist to the superhero origin formula, it became a run-of-the-mill horror film that sacrifices character depth and strong storytelling in favor of brutal kills and making people queasy. Thankfully, the gross-out meter for the film is respectably small compared to the “Saw” films. I can understand that the film is made for horror fans, but the filmmakers should at least know that there’s more to a horror film than just bloody fatalities and violence. To me, the biggest disappointment was the story. The film had a pretty interesting setup in the first act, but as soon as Brandon gains his powers, it slowly started to drag itself close to the ground. To its credit, it was able to provide some satisfying, yet terrifying, sequences due to its impressive visual effects, Yarovesky’s direction, and a strong cast (particularly Elizabeth Banks), but the lack of any strong emotion that was aimed towards its plot elements made the entire experience hollow and unrewarding. I think if the writers focused more on developing the relationship between Brandon and the couple that raised him, it would’ve made the rest of the film much more real and investing than what I got now.
Overall, “Brightburn” is a superhero movie that not only lacks the “hero” part, but lacks the “super” part as well. The film was able to punch its way out of mediocrity thanks to its solid cast and its tension-filled sequences. However, they’re not enough to viciously murder the film’s horror cliches and underwhelming story. It has what it needs to satisfy its target audience, but for those outside of that category, this is one superhero that they do not need right now. If you’re not into that type of stuff, you’re better off watching a superhero film from Marvel or DC.