Quick Hit: Though the plot sounds made for me, this film truly wasn’t.
I may have said on this website a time or two that Superman is kinda my guy. I’m huge on the Boy in Blue, despite the fact that so many people find his unnerving goodness boring. For all those that are all about the fact that there is no way a super powered being would turn out like Clark Kent and Superman – Brightburn may be for you. Produced by none other than St. Louis’s own James Gunn, Superman posits the nature vs. nurture debate, and nature wins. Hard.
Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman) are desperately in love, but they want a kid for their marriage. Fertility books on the shelf explain the trouble, and then a space ship lands outside, with a baby inside. In classic Ma and Pa Kent mode, they take the baby into their home, name him Brandon Breyer (to keep the alliteration necessary) and boom – he’s twelve, and experiencing the intense world we call puberty. But his is manifesting itself in voices from the spaceship telling him in an alien language that he should Take the World…. Isn’t that everyone’s power fantasy as a teenager? No?
From here, Brightburn essentially becomes a slasher/creepy kid movie. Jackson A. Dunn, who plays Brandon, pivots instantly in scenes from childhood innocence to a devastating glee at the destruction he has caused people’s bodies. And destruction is putting it mildly. There are bodies that are completely pulverized, pieces ripped off, others that are nothing but body parts hanging as the recipients of Brandon’s tantrums look on in horror, unaware that they are dying while Brandon finger paints in their blood. AND THAT LEGIT HAPPENS IN THIS FILM.
What’s unfortunate about this is that despite all the gore that is splashed across the screen, everything else is… well, pretty boring honestly. We know the story, and we know the characters. Kyle is going to be wary of his child, and Tori is going to love and accept and hold him no matter what happens. While we get some delicate pushes that lead us to think that maybe this film is going full bore with the adolescent metaphors that most comic book iterations flirt with – including some really disturbing behavior by Brandon with his teen crush – the film pulls its punches when it probably needs more. Wasting Banks away to just parrot things that Martha Kent would say to Clark is a bit disappointing honestly. And while there are moments of humor in the film – Kyle attempting to have “the talk” with Brandon while in the woods hunting is one of them – they are fleeting and not nearly as consistent as you should have to give you a break from the relentless violence.
So if you want a good idea of what Superman is capable of if he went bad… why not check out several episodes of Smallville that explore this – like the ones where Tom Welling’s Clark is on Red Kryptonite? Or read some classic stories about the Boy in Blue where he was raised in Russia? Or even just go play through the Injustice video game series? They are better than this.
I’m giving this one a “D”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"