If you happened to catch my Avengers: Endgame review, you will know that I have been on a major super hero movie adventure so far in 2019. With all the Marvel lads now firmly under my belt, the world is officially my oyster. Now felt like a better time than ever to turn the tables on my super hero story viewing experience, so the release of Brightburn couldn’t have been more fitting. Was I ready to see what things might look like on the other side of the equation?
Directed by David Yarovesky, Brightburn essentially tells the story, and answers the question of, ‘what if Superman had been a bad guy instead’? After years of trying to conceive a child, married couple Tori and Kyle Breyer (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) find a baby in the woods, seemingly fallen to earth in a spaceship. Twelve years later, little Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn), up ’til now a sweet and sensitive child, begins to discover his use of unbeatable powers. His adoptive parents can do nothing to stop the evil growing inside him, and this evil soon begins to find targets.
I don’t think there is anyone in the world who doesn’t think that this kind of reverse Superman story is a cool concept, and on the whole I would have to say that Brightburn does just enough to keep the viewer entertained whilst also not really doing enough to live up to the full potential of its premise. As is the case in with most narrative progressions like this, the pre reveal, early doors stuff tends to be more interesting than what comes when all the cards are out on the table, and Brightburn definitely does descend in to a little bit of silly chaos once all the evil and all the powers are out to play. It feels a little bit like the film starts to suffer from taking itself too seriously when what you are seeing on screen is so wild that it could do with even a half percentage of self knowing.
One thing, however, that I give absolute props for is the fact that the film features some moments and images of gore that had me truly gasping and covering my eyes. Quite honestly, I haven’t been as startled by gore like that since a few key images in last year’s Hereditary had me absolutely shook. This high level horror is used sparingly to great effect, and it adds a crazy punctuation point on to what in most other areas feels like a pretty standard PG-13 type horror.
Ultimately I feel like the shock value of these stand out moments are what swings my opinion of the film into the more positive side of the spectrum. Super hero and comic lore aficionados will probably have much more to say about the powers and origin story side of things, but as a casual viewer just looking to be entertained and potentially scared, Brightburn is a mostly entertaining, relatively fast paced ride that will do the trick for a fun evening with pals.
Elizabeth Banks is one of those actresses that I’ve come to appreciate in pretty much everything, even when the project she’s actually starring in isn’t the strong. As a mother half in denial about the impending doom her son is about to bring on the wider world, Banks is an enjoyable on screen presence. There’s no doubt that as the narrative progresses she is relegated to one of those characters in a horror movie, usually a female, who goes from one set piece to the other, basically just agape at what is unfolding, but she does it with a certain style that makes her entertaining to watch even when other characters are actually getting to ‘do more’.
As Brandon, Jackson A. Dunn is completely solid. Dunn certainly masters the distant stare of a demon child, and for someone so young he is very good at letting a scene sit in silence to achieve an even more sinister tone. There’s almost a hint of a young Donnie Darko mixed with The Omen’s Damien, and although the details of the plot start to fall in to the depths of farfetched, there is definitely something about watching this little boy cause chaos that is fun in a popcorn movie kind of way.
Completing the fated central family is David Denman as dad Kyle. Denman brings so much ‘dad energy’ to this role that it’s almost like I can’t imagine him playing any other kind of character. He’s got the burly dad bod, the mixture of sternness and sensitivity that all prospective spouses dream of, and Kyle as a character arguably has the more interesting work to do within the parental unit. As a couple, Banks and Denman have some enjoyable chemistry, not that you get to see much of it before the shit hits the fan, obviously.
Overall, Brightburn is an over the top dark super hero movie that I found to be much more enjoyable than perhaps the quality of the finished product deserves. Perhaps I was just in the right mood for some gory, crazy fun, or perhaps it just feels like a weirdly satisfying antidote to the Marvel wholesomeness that I’ve been living over the last few months. Whatever it is, the fact remains that Brightburn is not the best movie of the year, or even the month, but I still got a kick out of it.