Continuing to dominate the box office, superhero films are truly a dime a dozen these days. With this in mind, their repetitive nature has recently birthed fatigue with some moviegoers. Directed by David Yarovesky, Brightburn is a release that attempts to put a fresh twist on a classic comic book tale. Unfortunately, it does so in a poorly executed manner, lacking the development required for a well-told narrative.
Much like the origin of Superman, this story follows a child that crash lands on earth, eventually raised by a couple that finds him. Instead of becoming a saviour for mankind, the boy turns into something far more sinister. Jackson A. Dunn plays the aforementioned lead, Brandon Breyer; with Elizabeth Banks and David Denman portraying his mother and father respectively.
The concept of this film is an interesting one indeed. Rooted in an idea that many comic book fans have considered, there was some great potential here. At its best, the movie delivers a few solid horror sequences that establish the scenario of an “evil superman”, as it becomes a slasher of sorts. Brandon quickly becomes a monster stalking his prey, and while he is never really scary, there are some scenes that make decent use of traditional horror techniques alongside some truly shocking gore. Sadly, this point is reached too quickly, lacking the development needed to make us care.
At its core, the narrative that unfolds is at odds with itself. The story follows the boy on a path towards destruction but cares less about getting us invested in his journey and more about reaching a point where he is the catastrophic villain. His character arc is practically instant, jumping almost immediately from the point when he discovers his powers to the stage where he uses them for evil. The “what if Superman was bad” scenario just does not work here, as the narrative needed more buildup. At 90 minutes in length, the film could have easily had another 30 minutes to assist with the pacing issues, giving us a reason to care for the child before the twist in morality occurs. Furthermore, the reasoning behind his turn is simply uninteresting and lazy, leaving us disappointing with the execution overall.
With other filmmakers at the helm, this could have ended much differently. David Yarovesky’s limited experience as a director is evident throughout, as the structure of the movie seems incompatible with what was needed for a well-told story. Moreover, the script by Brian and Mark Gunn seems to only care about getting to the “evil superman” section as quickly as possible, failing to realise that well-paced setup is how you get there successfully. As the producer, James Gunn should have realised hiring the screenwriters of “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” was going to be an unwise move, even if they are family.
Brightburn is regrettably a bad film. While the concept is interesting and there are a few serviceable slasher moments, the overall product fails to deliver a well-executed picture. If anything, this movie should stand as proof that a fascinating idea does not create a successful piece of cinema without the needed filmmaking skills to back it.