“Brightburn” gruesomely twists comic book genre

BORIS MARTIN / SCREEN GEMS
Jackson A. Dunn as Brandon Breyer

People can argue that the movie industry is in the era of superheroes. Plenty of “origin” stories, reboots, spin-offs and sequels have brought what was once a niche market to a more mainstream audience. While these movies are fun, they can be formulaic. As a result, filmmakers have tried numerous approaches to make superheroes more interesting. They went from making it dark and gritty, like “The Dark Knight” to turning it into a comedy joyride, like “Deadpool” or “Thor: Ragnarok.” Now, it seems as if they have discovered a new way to play with this genre, and that is with horror, which comes in the form of “Brightburn.”

The movie is straightforward with its storyline. A couple (played by Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) encountered a boy (Jackson A. Dunn,) after his spacecraft crashed on their farm. Desperate for a child, they decide to name him Brandon Breyer and lovingly raise him as their own. However, it is a colossal mistake when the Brandon discovers his powers and decides to terrify the town.

The concept of the movie lies in a simple question: What if a Superman-like being has no moral compass? With that idea, it delivers a bloody and gruesome answer. On paper, it sounds like a superhero or supervillain origin story, but in the execution, it is a full fleshed horror-drama flick.

A lot of the film is devoted to the story of the family, who are being torn apart as Brandon grows hungry for blood. In order for this work, it requires amazing chemistry from the cast. Elizabeth Banks and David Denman are believable in the movie. The love that is on screen is heartwarming which results in quite an impact when the relationship crumbles as they figure out how to deal with their son. Jackson A. Dunn did a stunning job portraying the evil Brandon Breyer, to the point where people might even feel a hatred towards his character. Overall, the performances in the movie across the board are great.

Screen Gems
Elizabeth Banks as the loving and increasingly alarmed mother in “Brightburn.”

This is not the first time that filmmakers have tried to put a “thriller” spin on the superhero genre. Director M. Night Shyamalan blew audiences away with “Split” as his directorial comeback in 2016, which was a chilling story of a supervillain. A delayed project named “The New Mutants” also resembles the same tone as this movie, judging by the trailers.

“Brightburn” is different. The concept alone may interest many, while the movie has a lot of fun with the idea. It shows audiences what most superhero movies do not dare to show. It has blood, violence and is definitely not for the squeamish. Additionally, “Brightburn” is also surprisingly suspenseful, such as when the moments Brandon toys with his victims before the kills. They can make audiences hold their breath as they wait for him to strike.

Fans of comic book movies can recognize several nods to Superman in the movie. Brandon Breyer has quite a few of the same powers as the beloved American superhuman. The way he designed his symbol, flies, and even the location of Kansas are all tributes to the Man of Steel himself.

With all the positives, “Brightburn” comes with a few negatives. The story feels incredibly rushed, especially when Brandon finds out that he is special and goes from a sweetheart to a nightmare. However, the reason for his evilness is ambiguous, and the transition is extremely abrupt. The movie feels like it should be way longer than it actually is.

But with a fair amount of heroic superhuman stories, it does not hurt to have a few sinister ones. With “Brightburn,” audience can experience a combination of genres that has the potential to sprout a series of other copycat films in the future.