As some of you may know by now, horror is not my genre of choice but one sure-fire way to pique my interest is to add a superhero element. If you throw James Gunn into the mix then I am sold. As a result, I was quietly excited about Brightburn, which despite being directed by David Yarovesky, is ultimately a Gunn family affair; written by Mark and Brian, produced by James.
The basic premise of Brightburn is simple, and familiar; a spaceship falls from the sky on to the
Kent Breyer family farm. Amongst the wreckage, Tori and Kyle Breyer (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) find a baby boy who they take in as their own and raise as their son, Brandon (Jackson A Dunn). Although as he gets older, he discovers that he has powers and starts to use them for good evil.
As you have probably realised by now, Brightburn is effectively just a dark and twisted retelling of the classic Superman story, which is actually quite a refreshing change from the typical ‘good conquers evil’ superhero fodder that we have been inundated with lately*.
*Although, I still love the more traditional superhero movies.
I would love to argue that the difference between Clark Kent and Brandon Breyer is simply a case of Nature Vs Nurture, but for all intents and purposes, Brandon Breyer appears to have had a happy and healthy childhood. Although Banks played the role of doting and supportive mother well, unfortunately I am not sure that she was the best choice for the role. Don’t get me wrong, I love Elizabeth Banks but, for me, she shines in a comedic role and this was just a little too far away from the familiar for me. Plus, I am afraid to say that she has a rather annoying scream.
Brandon’s father, Kyle, is very quick to turn on his son when the going gets tough, which could imply that there may have been a little disconnect between father and son growing up, however what the relationship that we see on screen prior to this, again suggests a happy childhood. Although I would argue that Denman’s character is very much in the background, he does put in a solid performance that supports the relationships on screen and helps to drive the story forward.
Relative newcomer to the big screen, Jackson A. Dunn follows up a blink-and-you-miss-him gig in Avengers: Endgame with a surprisingly sinister performance as the lead. He is persuasive as both the sweet, highly intellectual pre-teen who is just trying to navigate his way through high school, and the cold, remorseless “superior” being, experimenting with his newfound powers on all those, he feels, have wronged him.
What was particularly good about this film is that it was very well paced. There is not much detail with regards to where Brandon came from, why/how he crashed on Earth or his overall purpose, and honestly, the film is all the better for it. Cinemagoers have seen God knows how many origin stories over the years, we can establish those basics for ourselves, what we want is to see the story move forward, and in that respects, Brightburn delivers.
It is the delivery that I am particularly enamoured with, the film veers away from the colourful world of the superhero movies into the dark and scary world that is horror. For those of you that are familiar with the Netflix series, Stranger Things, in Brightburn, Superman is in the Upside Down. Thankfully, this is not a film that depends on jump-scares but instead leans more towards violence and gore. What I enjoyed in particular was that the violence is just on your peripheral but the aftermath is somewhat in your face.
Whilst I did enjoy this film overall, it could, and should, have delivered so much more. There is scope for a sequel, and whilst I am not against the idea, Gunn and Yarovesky should go down the Glass route and stick to a solid trilogy, no more. There is not enough ‘oomph’ to expand it any further but similarly, I would also be perfectly satisfied if they did leave it here. However, given the current trends in Hollywood, I know what I’d put my money on.
Have you seen it yet? What did you think? I would love to hear your thoughts.