In Kansas husband and wife Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman) have been trying for a baby. However one night their dreams come true – from above. Plummeting out of the sky, a spaceship crashes to earth carrying one sole occupant: a baby boy. Naming him Brandon, he seems to be all they could wish for, except on his twelfth birthday, things start to change. Summoned one night to the family barn where the wreckage of the spaceships seems to be calling out to him, Brandon begins to realise he has a different destiny…
... turns the expectations of DC’s much-beloved character upside down.
In David Yarovesky’s reversal of the Superman origin story, ‘Brightburn’ turns the expectations of DC’s much-beloved character upside down. Whereas Superman is essentially an upright, virtuous PG-13 super hero, Brightburn is not. From it’s early R rated intentions, this is a movie clearly intent on subverting an over-familiar character into something more malicious and sinister.
As Brightburn / Brandon Breyer, Jackson A. Dunn delivers a fantastically well-measured performance as a young boy who despite the homespun social programming his foster parents have given him, cannot resist the blood, red urges of his true destiny – and this is where Brightburn’s real charm lies. ‘Brightburn’ is a movie that promises horror and in its slowburn of a first half, it delivers exactly that with some decent shocks and scares, all of which is underpinned by Dunn’s schizophrenic take on Brandon. Endearing without being sweet, creepy without trying too hard, his performance sells ‘Brightburn’s’ dual personality very convincingly. Ably supported by Elizabeth Banks and David Denman as his parents, the early passages of their life do a good job in drawing you into the darker promise of what lies beyond. However where ‘Brightburn’ starts to fade is when we get there.
Surrendering its hard-fought creepiness for a more splashy take on claret, ‘Brightburn’s’ credible cast ultimately fall over themselves in a series of collapsingly convenient scenes. Making less and less sense with each uttered denial, each character is cheaply discarded as their arcs are bent to suit the plot and that’s a real shame. Surrendering its third act to gruesomeness, ‘Brightburn’ slowly flickers out as a brave attempt whose genre conventions slowly choked themselves to death.
Like many brave re-imaginings before it, ‘Brightburn’ feels like a movie ready to divide opinion. Whilst many will enjoy its willingness to play fast and loose with its better known origin story, there are many loyalists that will question whether there was ever a need for an alternate take on Superman. Taken either way the simple fact remains that ‘Brightburn’ with all its faults carries more suspense in its first half hour that any Zak Snyder movie has in its entirety. That in itself, makes it a worthwhile watch.
DC could learn something here.