Critics are split on Brightburn, co-written by James Gunn, but is it any good? Well, it will live up to your expectations if you know what you’re in for.
It’s exactly what it sets itself up as, taking a page out of Superman (actually Superboy) and giving it a macabre, slasher twist you might find in Elseworlds. Kansas couple the Breyers (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) have trouble conceiving in the mid-noughties; then one night an alien spaceship containing an infant crash lands behind their farm and they take it as an answer to their prayers. Fast-forward to today and their son, Brandon (Jackson Dunn), is maturing and displaying a superlative intellect for his age, as well as other unique and deadly traits. And his ship? It starts to call out to him and unveil his destiny.
A storyline similar to another Gunn film, Slither, is followed but it’s not nearly as humorous. That is until the post-credit scene where we find a must-have Michael Rooker cameo as an Alex Jones-type personality. During the diegetic sequence of events, Brightburn goes for a simple Rosemary’s-baby-has-growing-pains-meets-an-alien-invasion-of-one premise that channels The Strangers at times. The tensest scenes are when Brandon is stalking somebody in their house or the woods with minimal CG effects.
Though things are grounded to a point, one thing they don’t do is give Brandon a whole lot of sympathy, particularly once he becomes a mega-threat. An awkward introverted kid at first, in a blink he doesn’t act with much remorse or grey area to his personality. He’s a living doomsday weapon, not very likable, and that’s about it. You feel sorrier for anyone who gets in his way, most of whom are just trying to do the right thing.
It’s made clear early on what we’re dealing with in Brandon. Sitting in class, his extraterrestrial advanced intellect allows him to explain the difference, profoundly, between regular bees and invasive species of wasps. The parallel dangles right there out in the open for us to pick up on. Where Gunn and director David Yerovesky head henceforth is never equivocated, although Brandon’s parents don’t cease to be surprised their son is from outer space, despite everything, before it’s too late.
Those who like this movie are heralding it for its gore and those moments are done well and nicely spread out. They start out small with Brandon breaking a girl’s arm and the aftermath of slaughtering livestock, but grow more elaborate, lingering on glass stuck in an eyeball and a guy’s jaw hanging loose after a serious wreck as Brandon lashes out and causes more carnage.
Trailers lead you to believe there is a clash in tone due to whiz-bang super-speed visuals complementing the blood. When you become invested in the story it doesn’t feel uneven between the opening and closing credits.
Brightburn is an effective horror film that subverts the superhero genre better than some dark and gritty reboots — tense the whole way through, it’s a film which keeps you riveted without overplaying its hand.
- Elizabeth Banks and a strong cast.
- Tight script and runtime.
- As dark and grim as it needs to be.
- Some logical lapses.
- Rather obvious twists and plot progression.