Movie Review: Brightburn

The superhero genre has plenty of gold to share with the world, but not enough of those movies do something radically different. Writers Brian and Mark Gunn, brothers of James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy fame, twist the iconic story of Superman into a slasher flick with plenty of gory kills and a refreshing take on the highly saturated genre. Super Myers may not soar like expected, but the film packs a punch.

After failing to have a baby, Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle Byers (David Denman) witness a spaceship crash behind their home to discover a baby. Their adopted alien son, Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) comes off innocent until his 12th birthday where he starts to descend down a supervillain path. His parents must come to grip with the reality of the identity of the child they have been raising all these years. A compelling narrative that weaves together a family, supervillain, and slasher story into one in a fairly successful way, but plenty of generic beats get hit to downgrade the experience.

Child actors can be a huge hit or a miss. While many of the supporting kids did not add much to the overall story, especially towards the final act, the little screen time was impressive. Besides Dunn, the only person to get any larger scenes around his age was Caitlyn (Emmie Hunter) who was a classmate that Brandon started to develop feelings towards. The adults did an outstanding job, but the young actors and actresses deserved more room to shine.

To no surprise, Banks is stellar with her performance along with her costars who bring together a wonderful family bond. Denman and Banks have a chemistry that feels like they have had a long history together. In both the brightest and darkest moments of this horrifying journey, the family dynamic between the three is flawlessly executed. I was floored how Dunn can snap from deep emotion to a soulless killer in an instant.

The caped murderer theme works, but I felt it needed some tweaking. The balance between supervillain and horror film felt unbalanced. The scarier aspects felt typical with some creative moments that needed to be exercised more often. Brandon’s arc as he discovers and learns about his powers were given little screen time, but every second was utilized to not waste the hour and a half runtime. The last act loses some of Brandon’s supervillain narrative except for a goofy scene during the beginning credits.

Some techniques with lighting and camera work were a sweet treat that I did not expect. The red to symbolize Brandon’s dark alter ego was masterfully placed to make for some disturbingly pretty shots. Plus one death scene has a unique take on how to shoot a character’s perspective before their demise, so keep an eye out for that even if you easily squirm.

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The deaths were satisfyingly brutal, but not enough was done. A murderous superpowered child should get a higher body count, especially with the short runtime. For gore fans, this is for you, but I felt I needed more to take care of my appetite for blood on the big screen.

I felt the inexperience from the Gunn brothers, and director David Yarovesky hurt the quality when this comic inspired horror flick should have been far better, but for younger filmmakers, they did impress with what they accomplished. Something felt missing from the plot to give it that extra nightmarish punch to the gut that sticks with him after viewing. Brightburn has excellent performances with some imaginative ideas, but it needed an extra push to be more original as a whole.

Score: 7/10

Images via Sony Pictures Releasing

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