Movie Review: Brightburn

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3 stars

R |

Director: David Yarovesky

Writers: Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn

by Jason Koenigsberg

We all know the origin story of Superman. Brightburn turns that around into a horror movie premise on the notion of what if a baby from outer space landed on Earth with ill intentions to dominate and destroy our planet. It is an interesting premonition and the movie has uneven results but is actually a dark metaphor about the horrors of parenting more than anything else. 

The opening shot is of a white mailbox and a large farmhouse at night as the camera shifts its focus in the shot from the house to the night sky full of stars, telling the audience that something is going to be delivered from the heavens. The audience then sees a couple talking playfully in bed with some images hinting that they are trying to get pregnant. Moments later there is a loud crash and something has fallen outside near their home. Similar to the origins of Superman what crashed was a baby boy and the couple adopts and raises him as we learn from some quick home video footage. Brightburn is not interested in the typical tropes of telling that type of story. In fact, Brightburn moves past a lot of the cliche images and dialogue that is accustomed with this type of story. Instead, it jumps straight to when the boy is twelve years old and starts going through changes that usually come with starting puberty. Brightburn is a cautionary tale about the hardships of being a parent and how to deal with when your child goes through changes losing their innocence and the parents are overwhelmed and confused about what to do. 

This movie is extremely graphic with the ramifications of violence that the child commits which are done to create shock from the audience so they realize how dangerous and downright evil this child is. If Superman had a baby with The Omen then Brightburn would be their offspring. Coincidentally both the 1978 Superman and original 1976 Omen were both directed by Richard Donner. Not sure if that means anything but just an interesting tidbit. The colors on the screen are meant to emote feelings of irony as the audience is constantly shown images of red, white and blue and the child is often costumed in those All-American colors associated with Superman. It can be heavy-handed at times but the color scheme and costumes work. 

The film does have its flaws. The pacing moves fast, really fast at times, probably too fast for its own good. It is refreshing that it skips over some scenes that audiences may expect but at a brisk 90-minute runtime some scenes feel like they could have been stretched out more for dramatic effect. It leaves enough background for the audience to use their imagination which is a plus, but Brightburn feels like it was in a hurry to get to the ending when it did not necessarily need to.  There are scenes where the child’s aunt is also his therapist and those scenes feel incredibly implausible as if the writers have no idea how the law works or how child psychiatry works other than to create tension that this demon child will create inevitable harm after he talks to her both in and out of her office. The same could be said for his love interest with a female student in his class. They develop their relationship to a point where it gets very interesting only to abandon that subplot and focus on the plight of his parents trying to come to terms with the changes their son is going through. Some moments like that bring the film to a standstill because they do not go anywhere. Also, some of the gore is just there to make viewers squeamish. After they establish the child is undeniably evil they still hold the camera on bloody images for no apparent reason other than to make people squirm in their seats. 

In the end, Brightburn has enough positives to recommend. The fact that it does use the Superman concept and turn it on its head into a giant “what if?” scenario ends up working more often than it does not. Elizabeth Banks delivers a strong performance as a dedicated mother determined to believe her child until she is pushed by evidence that there is a point of no return with her son. The ending introduces a character that is quite over the top and humorous and leaves Brightburn open for a sequel that may or may not happen depending on its box office receipts. Despite its flaws, Brightburn is a movie that I would not mind revisiting to spend more time in the world they created. 

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