Brightburn

2019-05-31 07:26
 
Jackson A Dunn in a scene from 'Brightburn.'

WHAT IT'S ABOUT:

What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister?

WHAT WE THOUGHT:

What if Superman was evil? This is the question that is explored by the filmmakers of horror Brightburn, created by James Gunn’s cousin and brother but directed by a relative unknown David Yarovesky. It poses a question of nurture vs nature, and how easy it might have been for the most powerful superhero to turn into a nightmarish villain, fuelled by a superiority complex and lack of empathy.

This could have been a great genre-twisting film, an almost pop culture essay on the superhero popularity that has been jumpstarted and sustained by Marvel (and to some extent DC). Unfortunately, it lacks a depth of character development and willingness to explain certain concepts to its audience. However, this could all be down to the fact that South Africa has a different, less gory cut than America’s R-Rated version.

Young adopted Brandon Breyer about to turn 12-years-old starts discovering his powers and questions his identity, but instead of harnessing his abilities for good, he starts down a path of terror.

The similarities to Superman’s origins is strong from the get-go - right down to his farmer parents from Kansas. And beyond the graphic horror and general psychopathy, it terrifyingly shows how easy it would have been for Clark Kent to use his abilities to shut down bullies, get what he wants and generally mess up his parents if they decided to discipline him just a little. In terms of the horror element, it’s eye-gauging, with some scenes where you literally have to look away because someone’s jaw was popping off their face. While fully embracing the horror element, it wasn’t a traditional horror - you knew who the perpetrator was - and instead focused on using the actor to instil fear rather than some cheap jumpscares.

But unfortunately, Brightburn is a movie that could have been great - but wasn’t. The biggest flaw was the complete lack of character development. Brandon, played by newcomer Jackson A. Dunn, is shown at the beginning as a sweet boy that loves his parents but feels a little awkward at school. When he starts to turn into a murderous psychopath, the change is instant. No opportunities were given to let Brandon struggle with his newfound identity, grappling between the human emotions he was nurtured with and his conquering alien-nature. The same can be said for his father, whereas his mother, played by the amazing Elizabeth Banks, is the only one with a decent story arc. Playing into these emotional rollercoasters would have elevated the film to the status of The Conjuring and Deadpool, even potentially getting it the dark universe that Yarovesky wants (imagine a horror version of the Justice League). But what we got was ‘meh’.

Brightburn was a film with grande potential, possibly creating a new genre to accompany the superhero schtick, but while it wasn’t terrible and still a good watch, it struggled with the same lack of emotional intensity as its hero - or in this case - villain.


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