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Brightburn – Movie Review

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Brightburn – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures

Superman is such a universally recognised character that many comic book fans have considered alternate theories about him for years. The concept of an evil Superman isn’t an original concept, but Brightburn nonetheless explores some interesting ideas about being a parent and how to deal with a child growing up. Director David Yarovesky isn’t squeamish about taking the film in some truly grotesque routes, either. Brightburn can go a little over-the-top at times, but the main characters are still worth investing in. The way it ultimately plays with the genres it’s representing makes for a solid B-movie viewing.

The filmmakers are well aware audiences are familiar with the Superman origin story and they smartly get straight to the point. Yarovesky establishes the horror elements early on with the way scenes are lit and it’s immediately obvious we’re dealing with a reworking of the Clark Kent story. However, the film avoids too much of the cheekiness other directors and screenwriters might have chosen to partake in. The word “superhero” is never uttered and characters don’t reference comic books and their fictional caped heroes. Brightburn could have overloaded with in-jokes, but it doesn’t do that. The film is mainly intent on establishing the Breyer family residing on this Kansas farm.

Yarovesky and screenwriters Brian and Mark Gunn manage to develop this family and in particular, look into the relationship Brandon has with his adoptive parents. As he is turning twelve years old, the film uses that to explore what parents might feel about their off-spring growing older and developing new emotions. There are themes about what it means to be a parent and the difficulty that can come up with that responsibility, as the Breyers attempt to make the right decisions in how they raise Brandon. Elizabeth Banks is particularly good as a mother unsure of what her son is going through and trying to understand his strange impulsive actions and new behavioral patterns. David Denman brings a different dynamic to the father as we witness the contrast in their suspicions and concerns.

That element of discovery upon finding out one has powers, a familiar story direction in superhero movies, is done here to solid effect. Brightburn takes the proper time to show Brandon using his abilities, even as we sense nothing good will happen. The movie eventually veers into slasher film territory and Yarovesky goes all out. This is an extremely gruesome film in the tradition of 1980s horror titles and while it goes a little overboard at times, there is some creativity to be found as it plays with the Superman mythos. Brightburn truly shows what massive cosmic powers in the wrong hands can lead to.

With superhero movies continually topping the box-office, it’s good to see these various spins on the genre. It’s almost like seeing those alternate titles in the comic book store, the ones with offbeat covers that probably shouldn’t be read by the younger fans walking down the aisles. This is a film made by people with a clear love for both the superhero and horror genre and they combine them in an entertaining way. However, there is also a certain emotional depth Brightburn accomplishes and it’s helped by the solid lead performances. The movie knows what it is and at 90 minutes, it gives us just enough to be satisfied by the horrifying scenarios presented.

Stefan Ellison

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