Brightburn is an interesting alternate take on the Superman mythos where, instead of a good old fashioned boy scout, the Man of Tomorrow is re-imagined as a mentally damaged boy who soon uses his newfound powers to kill and maim those who are unkind to him.
Firstly, and I’m really not sure why I was surprised by this, Brightburn holds a hard R-rating for gore. Perhaps it’s just because I’m so used to numbed down PG-13 horror movies and haven’t even watched a gory movie in a long time, but this movie is fairly brutal… one might even make the arguement that the last act is a superpowered slasher movie and, you know what? I’m okay with that.
What I enjoyed most about this movie was the family dynamic. Being the father of adopted children myself (patiently waiting for their superpowers to kick in so that I may take revenge on my enemies), I’m instantaneously attracted to this type of story. Beyond that, I completely bought the well worn affection displayed by Elizabeth Banks and David Denman. They were everyday folks who weren’t special, weren’t overly witty, and made silly human mistakes. Their ordinary lives contrasted nicely with the snowballing weirdness.
More than the relationship between the mother and father characters, I really liked how the greater antagonist in this story wasn’t Brandon, the psycho boy with superpowers, but rather the mother’s no-nonsense and unconditional defense of her son despite the fact that it’s painfully clear that he’s become an unhinged killer. To me, this isn’t a woman being stupid as I’m sure so many other people will claim it is, this is a mother being a mama bear which is a perfectly normal reaction all the way to the point that it becomes undeniable.
Jackson A Dunn, the actor who plays Brandon, does an admirable job playing the superpowered sociopath. You feel for him because he is just a kid caught up in so many things beyond his control, but at the same time, Dunn makes it clear that Brandon is a dangerous creature… it’s a special kind of fear.
Where I think that Brightburn hindered itself was in the way that Brandon is written. I would have preferred to see a more nuanced slide into psychopathy, perhaps even with a hint that something is terribly wrong with the kid even before his powers began to manifest. With the movie as it is now, it feels like the evil inside the kid is a switch that is turned on when he makes the discovery in the barn. True, you can argue that it’s an outside influence, but it was abrupt… almost like the Brandon in the first 20 minutes of the movie is a different character from the one at the end.
Overall, though, Brightburn is a clever movie, appropriately scary and disturbing and an interesting dark take on Superman. Moreover, it appears that there is a Brightburn Cinematic Universe evolving out of this film which definitely has the potential of being something great, a nice alternative to the MCU.