Director: David Yarovesky
Screenwriters: Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn
Stars: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn
OK, stop me if you’ve heard this one. A spaceship crashlands in Kansas. A farmer and his wife investigate and find a baby inside. Since the couple is childless and has been trying everything to become parents, they decide to keep the boy and raise him as their own. The comparisons with Superman’s origin story are no coincidence because this film posits a very interesting question; what if, despite loving parents and all the corn-fed wisdom in the world, Superman had turned out bad?
Unlike Clark Kent, young Brandon Breyer’s (Jackson A. Dunn) powers don’t manifest until his twelfth birthday (aliens obviously knew the exact date he was going to land on Earth and use the same calendar as we do) and then the straight-A student and all-round nice kid start to change. It’s a very creepy concept to explore what puberty with superpowers would be like in the wrong hands. Brandon’s attraction to a classmate leaves her creeped out and terrified of him as he quickly crosses that line between an infatuated kid and a violent stalker. His parents do their best to support him and keep him on the straight and narrow, but the voices whispering in Brandon’s head seem to have much more influence.
What follows is closer to a slasher movie than a superhero movie, with some of the goriest injuries and kills I’ve seen on-screen for quite a while. Brandon soon realises he’s ‘superior’ to everyone else and doesn’t have to do what anyone tells him. Elizabeth Banks plays his mother and gives a great performance. She’s one of those moms who’ll say: ‘My kid wouldn’t do that’ despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. A line earlier in the film tells us her own parents had already written her off by that age, and she’s determined not to do the same. Brandon’s dad is more level-headed about what his adopted son is becoming, but he’s unable to stop him, despite increasingly desperate measures.
Brightburn isn’t officially part of the DCU; there’s no comic or graphic novel that this is based on, but I think the filmmakers are hoping he will become an honorary member. During the closing credits, there are oblique references to Aquaman and Wonder Woman, which suggests that Brightburn does exist in this same world. This movie does something that even Marvel hasn’t attempted (yet) and gives us a full film devoted to a bad guy’s origin story. It’s not one for the kids though; it’s got its fair share of F-bombs and the deaths are really visceral.
The other thing that separates it from the majority of superhero movies is the budget. Brightburn only cost $6M and at the time of writing this, the box office figures collected two days after release show it had already taken $17M. That’s not big money for a superhero film, but with this low budget it’s already well in the black, so I hope that means a sequel will get green-lit quickly.
I like this premise and I really enjoyed Brightburn. It’s a nice twist to explore after years of superheroes who are committed to doing the right thing, and I think there’s a lot more mileage to be had out of this idea. If they take the time to develop this character properly, DC might have a supervillain worthy of bringing the gang together again if they ever attempt another Justice League-type movie.