Brightburn is a movie you watch for the gory horror and playful superhero subversion, asking the audience: “What if the best of us, instead, choose to be the worst of us?”
Produced by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and written by his brother Brian Gunn, and cousin, Mark Gunn. This Gunn show (couldn’t help myself, sorry) tells the story of child Brandon Breyer, a child who is a play off the Superman mythos and Clark Kent origin story.
Changing names for obvious copywritten purposes, the movie is marketed as an ‘evil Superman child’ story. Yet the comparisons are utterly misleading, as shortly into the film, the plot’s motivations seem shallow and somewhat contrived. It does, however, execute well on two particular things:
First, it provides a horror revision of an iconic superhero representing the American spirit. This movie is about knowing Superman’s origin story and withering in disgust — as we see revolting decision-after-decision — how easy it could’ve been to abuse these powers. How the American dream is of finding a good-natured and redemptive superhero — lets us play blind to some harsh truths: that some people are just bad.
Second, it represents the worst of the American Spirit. As this super kid is very much the story about every privileged white skinned bully in America — those who feel entitled to power over other people, women’s bodies, and most importantly — to the rights to do as they please without consequence. Brandon Breyer is meant to represent the same types of children who shoot up schools. Though it doesn’t feel proper because…
This movie does a poor job of explaining what makes Brandon (Superman Child) evil.
Which is pretty much it’s biggest flaws and why the film is divided amongst audiences. There is little in terms of character motivation despite a well-established plot set-up and world. Though it’s not the actors… but rather, a critical flaw at the turning point of this movie. In my opinion, the only real flaw (though it’s a massive one) was a single writing mistake that was doubled-down on — which really hurt the story for this film.
Early in, the movie shows that they were going with a ‘voices in the head’ and ‘psychopathic tendencies’ approach to Brandon’s character motivation. Brandon is evil because he’s going through puberty, and there are changes occurring not only to his body, but also ones that are making him hear voices via the spaceship he was sent down from — which is conveniently sending him messages into his brain now that he’s a teen. Why it’s wrong… is because the earlier scenes set up Brandon as a normal boy coming into this realization that he is special. Brandon isn’t a bad person, but for some reason, the movie forces us to make him evil, and become somewhat entitled by this knowledge.
Because once Brandon realizes who he is the movie stops trying and goes straight into the horror tropes. Fun to watch, but then loses its potential as a great film. The flip too conveniently happens and it’s unearned and jarring in terms of character personality switch. Still, there was a lot of good to take away.
This movie is full of stalking, slasher, and grotesque horror. It’s a pretty good blend filled with cringe-worthy moments, where bodies are maimed and messed-up in precise detail. Remember, Brandon is basically a God with super abilities, so the intricacies in his punishments are often cruel.
You see the tiny precisions of just how far this child from another planet is willing to go to get what he wants, and make people suffer for not getting what he wants. Lots of body horror involving body parts, but also the ability to stalk a victim and force his will upon them rather easily.
It’s brutal and often creepy. Especially given how a 12-year-old child who feels entitled is forcing people, including women, to bend to his wants or essentially get murdered. All in brutal fashion.
The gist of its premise is a couple adopt an alien baby that fell onto their farm from a spacecraft. Everything is happy, until the boy reaches puberty and receives a bizarre message imprinted into his brain. Whereas Superman is meant to “Save the World” Brandon is meant to “Take the World”. Oddly enough, the movie has a very passive town — as the people of ‘Brightburn’ are too quick to forgive and too dumbfounded to realize what Brandon actually is. It’s an almost gripe at the south, as well as infowars fanatics and conspiracy theorists.
Where It Could Have Gone
As of right now, the movie’s expected to flop. However, director David Yarovesky, and some of the producers left enough in line within the movie for a sequel. The character, Frank Darbo, from the movie Super (Played by Rainn Wilson) was also featured in a quick cameo – as was a slew of evil superhero parodies such as Wonderwoman or Aquaman. In an alternate ending featuring Emmie Hunter’s character Caitlyn. She had with her, a robot arm, and was angry and ready to seek revenge, possibly setting up a character arc parodying Cyborg from DC.
Basically, there were chances for a bunch of supervillain horror movies but it seems that given the movie’s lack of success it won’t happen.
Overall, I actually liked Brightburn quite a bit. It’s what it is: a horror superhero movie. The only real problem is that it’s a shallow one — though the techniques are pretty much on par with your standard horror movie. Likewise, I cringed in revulsion in some of its gory moments and thought the scary parts were executed well — I just found the lack of superkid motivation disturbing.
Final Score: 7/10
You can watch Brightburn in theatres right now