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Brightburn: Superman Gone Wrong

How are villains born in movies? They stumble into some form of power, or even a superpower, and use it for evil. But what if it is not a villain but your favourite superhero doing harm instead of good? Brightburn asks the question of what would happen if the Superman story had gone wrong.

Brightburn follows young Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn), a misfit student in the small town of Brightburn. When Brandon discovers the buried secret that he is not exactly “adopted”, he realises he is not only special, but superior to those around him. Mother Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and father Kyle (David Denman) struggle to understand their son’s changed behaviour and once they do, it might be too late for everyone that crosses Brandon’s path.

The concept of people with superpowers being all-helpful and heroic has been milked by every superhero film ever made (and there are many), but the notion that a superpower does not always mean a superhero sets Brightburn apart from other sci-fi or thriller films.

The film starts as two parents having a problem dealing with their kid as he heads towards becoming a teenager, which is pretty standard. However, it does not take long before a secret is divulged, and it is eventually revealed that Brandon arrived on earth in a spaceship. The film keeps the suspense going in the plot, even past the reveal, with lingering silences and escalating events.

Another positive in this feature is that Brandon did not just wake up and start wreaking havoc, but he has to discover where he is from, and then starts becoming violent only towards those who were a threat to him. It is defiantly worth mentioning that the filmmakers did not sacrifice this logical sequence for a whole bunch of crowd-pleasing action (which the audience also gets).

There are a couple of gruesome scenes in this that seem real enough for audience members to cringe rather than laugh at as fake.

The silly part comes afterwards, when Brandon supposedly flies around at enormous speeds menacing those that threaten his wants and needs. Yes, an alien boy should have superpowers, but that aspect could have been handled with more subtlety and less cartoonish implausibility.

For the acting, Jackson A. Dunn was creepy and managed to pull off the part, but his performance is not one to remember amongst the many child actors who played “creepy kids”. Elizabeth Banks was the film’s top performer as a loving mother until the very end, with perfect impressions of denial, unconditional love, and pain. David Denman also gave an adequate performance, only having trouble in highlighting the transition from unconditional love for Brandon, to doubts, and then to realisation.

Brightburn’s concept is worth deliberating and opens doors for another aspect on superhero films which makes it worth watching, even though it doesn’t really hit its stride.

Like This? Try

It (2017), Us (2019), Orphan (2009), The Omen (1976).

360 Tip

The middle school scenes were shot at the now-defunct Patrick Henry High School in Stockbridge, Georgia. This is the same location used for both Hawkins Middle and Hawkins High Schools in seasons 1 and 2 of Stranger Things (2016).

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