June 11, 2019

Movie Review: Brightburn

When I first saw the trailer for Brightburn, I have to admit to being a little confused. On one hand, it certainly looked intriguing, but on the other hand, I could not help but be reminded of the origin of Superman. It is a story everybody knows, I feel that Superman’s origin is like the tale of Frankenstein’s Monster at this point, everyone is born knowing it. There is no need to tell and retell the story time and time again, there is nothing new you can bring to the table. It is possible to tell a story about Superman without starting with his origin. I have felt that there are lots of origin stories that can be skipped. The worthwhile origins are those like in the Unbreakable-verse, which i new and fresh (not commenting on whether you like it or not, just that it is new), or in the case of Brightburn, where an element gets turned on its ear and makes the familiar new again.

Brightburn takes the familiarity of Superman origin and flips it around by asking what would happen if the baby that crashed here from another world was not quite as wholesome and was, instead, evil. It is still very much an origin story and keeps to the straight and narrow of that outline. It never strays from the path, never gets over complicated, and is simply telling a what-if based on something we already know. It is all quite exhilarating.

Written by James Gunn’s brothers, Brian and Mark (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, Bring it On: Again), and directed by Steven Yarovesky, Brightburn delivers the simple premise of an evil Superman. It is quite a terrifying tale. Just think about someone with that kind of power without the boyscout morality of a Clark Kent, a young powerhouse with no moral compass and a superiority complex. Rather terrifying isn’t it?

We meet his adoptive parents, Tori and Kyle (Elizabeth Banks and Brian Denham), a couple struggling to have a baby of their own. They, well, Tori at least, believe this was heaven answering their prayers. The story jumps ahead a little bit and we pick up the story as the boy, named Brandon, is on the verge of becoming a teenager and on the edge of manifesting his powers.

I love how the story unfolds simply for us. Brandon begins to learn that he is different, that he has powers, and that his parents are telling him he is special. He does not really know how to process these changes and the reactions of those around, and he ends up processing them in unexpected fashions. He takes his being special to another level and begins to show just how special he is with little regard for those he now views as beneath him.

Brightburn is pure origin, seemingly ending where some movies of this type are just getting started. Brandon, played by Jackson A. Dunn, is certifiably creepy, and thusly picked out by his classmates for being picked on. You know how kids are. I loved how he was portrayed as being socially awkward and rebellious to authority, all things you expect of someone on the verge of going through puberty, and exhibiting superpowers, of course. I enjoyed how the film delivered some horror level gore.

This, while not perfect, is a delightful slice of subversive cinema. I love the little tweak to the Superman origin, and I love ho the characters all fulfilled their roles. I would have liked to get a little more, I understand why they stopped it where they did. The origin is over, the next story is his revelation to the world. This world is in for something it is clearly not ready for.

While that is the bigger story, I did like the development of Brandon, his reaction to what he perceives as a lie, how he takes the idea of being special and equates it with being superior and how he exerts his superiority on those who dare to question or threaten him. I can only hope we get more Brightburn, but I suspect this may be the end of the road and anything that would come next will be merely conjecture in the minds of the fans.

Highly Recommended.


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