Film Review: Brightburn
PUBLISHED: 10:57 24 June 2019
Mark Goodin reviews the new ‘if Superman was bad’ film
Turning the origin of Superman on its head, the premise of Brightburn - what would happen if the Kryptonian who crash-landed on a farm grew up to be not the do-gooding man of steel but something else altogether more sinister - is the sort of wonderfully subversive twist on the superhero genre that could only come from a writer-director like James Gunn. While he serves as a producer here, his influence and style are nevertheless keenly felt in David Yarovesky's feature.
As we follow the pre-pubescent Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) on his journey to becoming a murderous supervillian, the director sews some good, if familiar and heavy-handed family drama into the proceedings and draws fine work from Elizabeth Banks and David Denman as Brandon's increasingly overwrought adoptive parents Tori and Kyle. However, despite this fine work, Brandon's transition from affable, socially awkward child to remorseless psychopath feels rushed and, while Dunn is an imposing presence, neither he nor his two co-stars are ever given enough time truly to sell this transformation.
It's in the film's regular segues from twisted family drama to horror that it comes alive with its gallows humour, unsettling set-pieces and striking imagery - a hooded, levitating Brandon is an eerie recurrent image - redolent of Gunn's earlier works such as Slither and Super as well as other dark takes on the genre including Josh Trank's Chronicle.
While it fails to add anything new to the horror and superhero genres Brightburn is still an inventive and enjoyably bleak film.