Movie Review: Brightburn

Simple Review- Kal Ev-El

Sometimes a movie comes along with such a simple concept that one has to wonder why no one thought of it before. A cop gets trapped in a high rise building by terrorists in L.A., boom you get Diehard. Super tough commandos get hunted by an unstoppable alien, boom you get Predator. A man enters other peoples dreams to implant an idea to help out super rich corporations while trying to avoid his wife, although she isn’t really his wife but an incarnation from his subconscious that interferes with a heist set in another person dream while they go further into what may or may not be reality…ok that one might not be so simple. ( Inception by the way, but you knew that) Enter Brightburn a film that answers the question: What if Clark Kent chose the dark side? Pretty simple idea, right? Did the film answer that question? Well, grab your Kryptonite and meet me at the Fortress of Solitude to hit this unstoppable force of a movie with the immovable object that is this review.

Superhero movies have become so popular that we can’t go very long without another big budget, tent-pole event with some super suit-wearing hero slugging it out with another underdeveloped villain. Fortunately, with the release of films such as Deadpool, Kick-Ass, and Logan, some filmmakers are looking to put a new spin on the tried and true formula we’ve grown accustomed to. James Gunn is no stranger to playing with the superhero formula already having done so in his movie, Super, and now he is the producer that delivers another twist to the genre. Gunn’s brothers, Brian and Mark, serve as the film’s writers and, along with director David Yarovesky, they have delivered a nasty little movie that doesn’t hold back on the tension and gore to make you realize that maybe it is for the best that superheroes aren’t real.

I am confident that it doesn’t qualify as a spoiler to tell you, my reliable reader, that the basic plot of Brightburn is simply the origin story of the Man of Steel. Two young parents, played by Elizabeth Banks and David Denman, are trying to have a child on their own when out of the blue a spacecraft crashes near their house carrying an infant from another world. They decide to raise the child as their own and eventually their son, Brandon,  begins to develop incredible powers. Unlike the big blue boy scout, Brandon decides that fighting for truth, justice, and the American way isn’t for him. No, Brandon knows he is unstoppable and isn’t shy about using his great power in not so responsible ways. The filmmakers embrace the terror that comes from this twist on the Superman origin story and they do not hold back showing what someone with those powers is capable of. This movie definitely made me reevaluate my opinion on how my favorite superhero, Batman, would do in a one-on-one fight with Supes. It wouldn’t end well for the Dark Knight.

The cast of Brightburn does an exceptional job of bringing this superhero horror movie to life. Elizabeth Banks shines as Tori, Brandon’s mom, who starts the movie as the slightly overprotective mother coming to terms with her son getting older and by the last act of the film she is fighting her love for her son and what she must do to save the planet. Banks has been better known for her comedic roles in the past, but she delivers in this role giving a sympathetic mother that has to struggle with the fall of her beloved son into evil. David Denman is as important as Brandon’s dad, Kyle, as he understands what Brandon is becoming before Tori and has to convince her of the monster their son is transforming into. Denman plays the role perfectly as he balances both fear and love for his child. There is a great moment when Kyle is shown that he isn’t the alpha male in the house by Brandon and Denman does a great job conveying the knowledge that his 12-year-old son can toss a grown man around with ease. As for Brandon, Jackson A. Dunn has the most important role in the movie as we need to be both sympathetic and afraid of Brandon. Fortunately, Jackson is able to do so and he does transform from a socially awkward pre-teen to an unstoppable killing machine. I especially like the way he used simple facial expressions to show the moments when Brandon becomes enlightened as to what he is capable of doing. Trust me, this kid pulls off the horror villain vibe and had me legitimately scared for the characters in the film.

Brightburn is a well-made horror movie that does take it’s time setting things up before it dives headlong into the mayhem. The tension builds throughout the film as we watch Brandon use his powers to not simply kill his victims, but terrorize them as he does so. There are great shots of Brandon in his creepy “superhero” suit lurking in the background stalking his victims, and the filmmakers do a nice job of using shadows and lighting to make you strain to see if Brandon is in a room hiding or not. I admit it was spine-chilling watching the images we are used to seeing in more traditional superhero movies being twisted into a horrific shot or scene, and, as warped as I am, I rather enjoyed it. Oh, and did I mention the gore?? As I stated earlier, this is a rather nasty and violent little movie!

The only real complaint I have, and that keeps this from being a truly great movie, is the way Brandon’s turn to evil is handled. There never seems to be a good explanation as to why Brandon chooses the path of wickedness. With Superman, since Brightburn is basically a retelling of Clark’s origin story, we understand why Clark chose to fight for good. Yes, he had the same powers as Brandon and could have gone the same way, but his upbringing and moral code instilled by his parents allows us, the audience, to understand what motivated Clark to put on a cape and red underwear and fight bad guys. With Brightburn, we get the same good parents raising the same type of child yet Brandon dives into the darkness without any hesitation. The writers do give some clues but not enough to justify Brandon going dark. Brandon does get some bullying at school but it isn’t as awful as you might think and doesn’t serve as a motivator. Perhaps if that were explored a bit more with Brandon being beaten up and being powerless to stop it until he gains the strength to do so than show him winning a fight and enjoying that feeling of being unstoppable. Ok, I need to stop trying to rewrite the movie, but you see my point I wish the filmmakers would have shown us more of Brandon sliding into the darkness than him just simply becoming evil.

We have reached that all important time in this review where we wrap things up in a nice little bow for the masses. Overall, I enjoyed Brightburn and highly recommend checking it out in theaters if you are a horror or superhero fan. It is a fun twist on what we have seen in countless superhero films and it does not hold back on the gore and violence if you are into that kind of thing. ( And I know you are!) I hope it does well enough at the box office to warrant a sequel as I would love to see what happens next with Brandon.

I hope you enjoyed my rambling review and if you did please like and share with the uneducated so we can take over the world!!

As always, thanks for your time!

The Movie Psycho


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