So here’s a story I bet you’ve never heard. Something from space crashes down near the property of a hard-working farm family. In the wreckage the couple finds a baby boy who they take in as their own. As the child grows up it is revealed that the boy possesses an assortment of superpowers. Sound familiar?
The new film “Brightburn” essentially takes the Superman origin story, changes the characters, and adds a pretty big ‘what if’ element to it. What if the child grew up and used his powers for evil instead of good. “Brightburn” takes that premise, runs with it, and (most importantly) sticks to it which is a key reason why the movie works as well as it does.
“Brightburn” has been touted as a James Gunn production, written by Mark and Brian Gunn, and directed by Gunn collaborator David Yarovesky. The story follows Tori and Kyle Breyer (played by Elizabeth Banks and David Denman), a couple who have struggled with their farm and with having children. That’s why they saw the arrival of Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) to be such a blessing.
Ten years prior a meteor fell near their home. Inside was a baby who the Breyers adopted and named Brandon. But as years pass he begins to notice he’s different than other kids. And with the discovery these newfound superpowers comes a troubling turn in Brandon’s psyche. Tori and Kyle desperately try to keep their son’s secret and keep him on the right path. But can they shield him from the dark forces that are pulling him towards evil?
The unique central premise of “Brightburn” drives the film from beginning to end. It’s a cool subversion of the superhero genre although it’s nothing too deep. Instead, at its core it’s a straight supernatural horror movie. And not just another tame jump-scare thriller that we get by the dozens these days. Yes, there are a few sudden loud bumps but there is also some delightful old-school Raimi-esque gore that I wasn’t expecting. And by keeping it focused on and revolving around the film’s central conceit, it never loses its freshness.
But there is one big frustration that unfortunately had a big effect on my experience with “Brightburn”. This turns out to be one those examples of a trailer revealing too much and killing the suspense in some of the film’s biggest scenes. If you’ve seen the trailer you already know the fate of several characters. Knowing ultimately undermines the impact of what should have been big some of the movie’s big moments. It’s hard to figure out how that should effect a review score but it certainly effected my viewing experience.
And that’s a real bummer because there is so much I like about “Brightburn”. The performances are good, the pacing is crisp, end it sees its concept through to the end, finishing up in what I think is a very intriguing place. It’s truly a fun alternative take on the superhero genre. Just make sure you stay away from the trailers. Their impact on the movie had me pulling out my hair.
VERDICT – 3.5 STARS