Brightburn: Review by @Kush_Hayes
While this is no Marvel or DC comic book, it is inspired by two properties, Superman is the obvious one, and then theres a series (between both individual publishers) called Elseworlds, (or Marvels “What If?”) where you take a familiar character and alter their story just slightly.
In this movie, written by Gunn Brothers, Mark and Brian as well as produced by James, we ask the question “What if Superman came to earth, but was evil?”. A lot of this feels like reaction to Zach Snyders DCEU, specifically Man of Steel where a lot of beauty shots are borrowed to keep the theme of everyday ordinary simple small town farmers. Part of it also feels like the “go against the grain” approach to presenting a character. Two of WBs most popular video games involving their DC Comics properties, Superman is the Villain in both. As a fan of Superman growing up, I am biased and kind of hate this movie. But this would be a horrible review if we just left that here. So we will go further with an unbiased review.
This is a very well made film. It captures heart, emotion, pain, sadness, fear and isolation all within a tight 91 minute package. While The Gunns and Sony would love if I used the movie characters names, you cant help but think about their comic book counterparts regardless if they were wearing gigantic name tags.
So, we meet the Kents, a nice normal married couple, living in Brightburn Kansas, trying to have a baby. One night a meteor crashes in their back field. Inside it they find a baby boy. Through a montage of home video footage, they have adopted the child, named it clark and life is good. Its around Clarks 12th birthday that Jonathan and Martha (played by David Denman and Elizabeth Banks) notice a change in Clarks personality and behavior. Friends and family try to brush it off as “its just puberty” and even for a minute they try to believe that as well. Pa Kent even gives Clark “The Talk” which goes over his head as he misinterprets his fathers meaning. This leads to Clark actually scaring his 6th grade crush to the point where she full on rejects him. And as boys with or without super powers go, he doesnt take it well. To the point where he injures her severely. This is where teachers, counselors and even the Sheriffs dept come into play and while Martha tries to rationalize and excuse the odd behavior of her “baby boy”, Jonathan knows his eyes arent betraying him and senses the worst in his adopted son.
The scenes where Clark is stalking his victims I found to all be quite terrifying. Most Superman properties, when our hero invokes his superspeed theres always a gust of wind and a little sound effect, but not in Brightburn. You MAYBE see Clark for just a second and then he’s gone. And he’ll perform an action that none of us the audience nor our characters on screen can see. Be it an open window that was just closed, be it a laptop that was just shut. Clark seems to enjoy toying with his prey. And no one knows what a Superman is, Aliens are not a thing to these simple country folk, so these actions and events they are witnessing are quite terrifying. And the Clarks eyes start to glow red and no one seeing them knows what to do and then its Game Over.
I think Elizabeth Banks did a great job as a mother who loves her son regardless of his wrongdoings. David Denman, who I primarily know from TVs The Office (US) shows great range as a father conflicted with the love of his son and having to do something about a killer, who is still his son. Jackson Dunn, whose character Ive been calling Clark but has been named Brandon this whole time, brings that uneasiness into the role even before things go wrong with his character. His stillness in scenes is accompanied by lots of eye shifting as you see his character processing either what he has just done (discovering his powers) or what his next move is in the scene he’s in. Of all the murderous children Ive seen in 2019 and somehow Ive seen a handful now, his performance is the best.
I keep thinking that this movie is a response to Zach Snyders DCEU, more specifically Man Of Steel which was supposed to be a “realistic portrayal of if Superman was real and lived among us”. If thats the case, then David Yarovesky in only his sophomore directorial feature responds with “...Hold my 12 year old Scotch”.
The characters feel real. The consequences for everyones actions feel real. The terror in this is real. And the gore in this, is obtuse and used where needed causing everyone in my audience to give that uncomfortable groan reaction. Only the gore within the diner as youve seen in trailers, do they linger on and let you experience this sole waitresses fear putting most of the scene in her POV. The rest of the gore in the movie, doesnt really linger but it is obtuse and each fatality caused my audience to react uncomfortably.
This movie had me on the edge of my theater recliner. I was engaged the entire time. Despite knowing what movie I was in, I kept hope with the Kent family and when that hope was finally gone I was crushed with them.
Four out of Six Blueberries