Stop reading if you have seen this concept before! (only kidding- a good 10 minutes went into writing this).
A married couple living in a farm, hear a massive explosion, go and see what it is, discover that its not a meteorite that has fallen on their land but a Spaceship and within it, a young baby boy emerges. The young childless couple, take this boy in as their own, hide his spacecraft in their barn and hope that one day he grows up to wear glasses and has a fondness for wearing his pants on the outside of his trousers, while showing Superhuman powers that will make him become the hero that planet Earth needs!
Superman right? Well not quite. What if the boy from Kyrpton loves his powers just a little bit too much? What if he realises he could rule over Mankind and that nothing and no one could stop him? That is the interesting concept that Brightburn tries to deliver to an audience who is well familiar with Superman lore. What if Superman was bad?
To be fair on James Gunn who leaves the comedy delights of his Guardians Of The Galaxy crew to return to his horror roots, knows full well that using our Man Of Steel experience and twist it onto a darker path will enhance the attempt at the scares, but for fans of the DC, they will know this is path that has been will trodden over the years. Many have clamoured for a film version of the acclaimed comic book, Red Son in which Superman’s pod landed in Russia and not Smallville, so if this is the best we ever get of a dark Superman tale on the big screen, then we hope that it delivers.
When Brightburn works, it really files, but if a film ever needed an extra hour of run-time then the 1hr and 31 minutes is a perfect example. The story is faster than a speeding bullet, not pausing for breath and because of that it suffers alarmingly. When it should be offering a different slant on a well known tale, the viewer is pushed head first into the carnage which results in a mix match offering of fun and frustration.
Kyle and Tori ( David Denman and Elizabeth Banks) are the film’s heartbeat, a couple who find a baby from space, pretend its theirs and name him Brandon (Jackson A. Dunne). At first the kid is OK, but then the hidden spaceship in the barn starts to glow red and when Brandon discovers his powers, then all those around him will be wishing that the only bad thing this kid does is go to a bar and flick peanuts into a mirror.
The silly plot of the the spaceship chanting horrors to the child it sent to Earth, typifies the frustration of the film. Why can’t Brandon just hit puberty and turn into a bad ass? Why do we need a Possession horror riff that comes across really needless to the plot. Once Brandon knows he can’t be hurt and throws a Lawnmower across five states, it would have been much better if he had the attitude of a normal teenager, a teen with tantrums who couldn’t care less what his parents think. That would have been more fun, instead of the same old horror tropes being carried into the script.
Even the parents can add a bit of frustration to the viewers, as their lack of understanding to what is happening to this boy from space when its so obvious, starts to become tiresome and you get a sense of great relief when they finally come to their sense. The trouble is, the film really needed an extra hour to flesh out the character. Brandon goes from nice kid to evil in a matter of minutes and we never get the necessary tension that a film like this so badly requires.
But……..and shock horror, Brightburn can be fun if you let it be. It has a surprising vicious tone that may stun the horror crowd with an eye ball scene being a delicious delight! There is an enjoyment of seeing this kid with a cool mask and cape, flying around killing those who threaten him, even if the slasher element lacks originality and freshness.
The finale plays like an A to Z of the slasher genre, with flickering lights and dumb character decisions, there is nothing special or spectacular, with the film’s kryptonite being the script itself. But by then you either be on-board and just enjoying the silliness or wanting the film to end.
Brightburn really is a mix and match film but everyone who watches will all agree that while in 1978 we all believed a man can fly, in 2019, we still believe he can…..but sadly won’t believe he can scare…….