Brightburn Blu-ray Review

In the last two decades of superhero films, it didn’t take long for us to question the concept of super-powered humans as paragons of virtue.

I don’t mean questioning their fallibility or, cringe, their (super)humanity, but instead focussing on the fact that being superhuman doesn’t automatically exclude you from being, well, a right wrong ‘un.

Over ten years ago, Will Smith’s Hancock hit the screens, giving us a fun, can’t-be-arsed take on the classic superhero concept. This was followed a year later by the big-screen adaptation of Alan Moore’s Watchmen, which featured a less than heroic version of superhero team-ups.

With The Boys now on Amazon and the upcoming TV spin-off of Watchmen, not to mention the general erosion of faith in real-life World Leaders, there seems to be a greater urge than ever to explore the fact that with great power, sometimes comes a greater chance of irresponsibility.

Brightburn takes the superhero-gone-wrong idea to scary and horror-inflected depths.

The film’s hook is quite simple: what if Superman chose not to use his powers for good?

In this case, our Clark Kent prototype is the alliteratively named Brandon Breyer who resides in Brightburn, Kansas.

Brandon seems to be experiencing a joyful childhood, growing up on a spacious farm under the care of his loving parents, Tori and Kyle Breyer (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman).

Then Brandon’s twelfth birthday hits and, in a none-too-subtle puberty analogy, strange things start to happen to his body as he discovers his true nature.

This is a lot for any twelve-year-old to handle and let’s just say the kid doesn’t handle it well.

Before you can say ‘We Need to Talk About Brandon’, things start to spiral out of control for the Breyers and for the general residents of Brightburn. And in terrifying fashion.

James Gunn’s producer credit was a big publicity point for the film, which was written by Gunn’s cousin and brother. Not only will Gunn be tackling supervillains through his upcoming Suicide Squad movie, but he also has previous form exploring lo-fi hero concepts with 2010’s Super.

Whether due to Gunn’s input or not, David Yarovesky’s film feels well crafted. It may suffer from the standard horror trope of characters acting irrationally for plot purposes, but it generally hits the right story beats.

In the central roles, Jackson A Dunne gives Brandon an appropriately otherworldly quality and Banks is great as his mother, torn between maternal love and absolute horror at what is unfolding.

The problem is that the film feels a bit too small for the concept it is exploring. A large portion of the 1978 Superman film featured Clark Kent growing up, discovering his powers and then moving to Metropolis and exploring this on a global level.

Here, Brandon gets to twelve and causes havoc in a small town. Roll credits.

Obviously, there are differences in budgets and maybe all this will be addressed in the rumoured sequel but for now, this feels more like the beginning of something than a satisfying whole.

Now they just need to make a darker version of Batman, where he goes nuts and brands and kills people.

No, wait… never mind.

Conor Brennan

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Dates ‘n stuff

October 2019