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Movie Review: Brightburn

Witness the birth of evil with Brightburn. Image used from Screengeek.com
Everyone knows the story of Superman. A baby who escaped the destruction of his home planet, crashed to Earth and was raised by a kindly
couple in the middle of nowhere. He grew into the very personification of truth, justice and the American way, protecting the innocent and living
by a strict moral code. Of course the idea of a “What If” story has always existed such as what if Superman grew up to become a villain? That’s what the film Brightburn delves into and it does not pull any punches
with it’s concept.

The story for Brightburn is is clever and very tense. The film follows Tori and Kyle Breyer, a young couple who find a baby in a spaceship and raise him as their own. The child, Brandon, initially grows into a kind young
boy and early on a sense of tragedy already sets in. It hurts to see this
family being happy and not having a care in the world and seeing this
intelligent boy with so much potential and knowing full well what
monster he will become gives a strong sense of dread throughout.
It isn’t long until Brandon begins to turn evil and from here the film
chooses not only to take it’s time with his transition but adds a unsettling sense of realism to it. Tori and Kyle soon discover images of gore and
mutilated bodies mixed among hidden pornography in Brandon’s room, Brandon becomes quiet and aggressive. A rather interesting aspect of this is his growing sense of toxic masculinity where he begins to obsesses
over and stalk a fellows classmate, acting as if she belongs to him. It isn’t
just simply a Superman type character turning into  mustache twirling
super villain but rather psych 101, a look into how a boy turns into a serial killer which truly makes the whole thing even more disturbing. The
story goes through a slow burn, building up to when Brandon becomes
the bad guy and as it progresses the tension grows more and more to the point that even simple scenes keep you on edge. The tension pays off
greatly with Brandon’s full transformation and final rampage which is
exciting as it is terrifying and disturbing and it all works so well thanks
to the building of tension. The subversion is interesting and works very
well, however the problem with it is that it also comes off as accidentally xenophobic. Superman has always meant to symbolize an immigrant,
now more then ever. So to make the immigrant the violent psychopath
who rampages through the “heartland” comes off quite bad. It was clearly an after thought but still one that leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. Whoops. Not only that but it feels even more could have been done with the
story. While it is tense and engaging with a good payoff it still comes off
as a simple serial killer origin and seems to play it safe too often. Much
more could have been done with the story however what we get is still
quite good and nice starting point in what has the potential to grow.

The characters for Brightburn are interesting but flawed

Tori and Kyle Breyer are both pretty good characters though at times Torican be more problematic. Tori is a good and loving mother who always
defends her son and believes there is good in him. That’s fine, heck it’s
what really lends itself to the tragedy of it all. However it doesn’t take
long for it to become irksome as there is clearly something wrong with
Brandon and her refusal to see it goes to far. Kyle, on the other hand, is a more likable character as from early on he knows something is wrong
and keeps trying to so something only to be stopped by Tori each and
every time. 
Brandon is an interesting parallel to Superman. While Superman wants
to do good and protect the innocent Brandon is cruel, arrogant, violent,
misogynistic and wants to rule over mankind. This makes for not only an interesting juxtaposition but a pretty good villain. But like the story itself Brandon could have been so much more. The problem is that the writers wanted him to get to being The Bad Guy as soon as possible and thus
threw out any kind of character development he could have had.
Brandon starts off as an average boy: A good student, a good son who
loves his parents, just your run of the mill American boy. However, he soon starts hearing sounds from the ship he arrived in as a baby, hidden in his parents barn, and at the drop of a pin is ready to become evil. Just like that. No struggle, no conflict, just “Oh, guess I’ll be evil then”. Again this is a boy who had a normal, loving upbringing and he never once questions why he should be evil. he never fights the temptation, he never simply
wants to remain the good boy he’s always been and if that had been the
case it would have given his character so much depth and would have
lent itself to the film so greatly. He may be a good villain but he could
have been more: A sympathetic, tragic character. 

Acting for Brightburn is well done

Elizabeth Banks does well as Tory Breyer. Banks does a good job, working well with her costars and coming off sincerely as a mother protecting her child. Banks manages to carry the film through many scenes and is
always a commanding presence.

David Denman does a good job as Kyle Breyer. Denman gives one of the
finest performances of his career as his performance really made me feel for Kyle’s plight more and more. It is nice to see him doing more serious roles which really add to his acting talent.

Jackson A. Dunn gives a phenomenal performance as Brandon Breyer.
Dunn is incredibly unsettling as Brandon coming off as both cruel and
smug all while being calm and collected. He has his moments of outbursts where he shows the underlying rage of his character and in such
moments is intimidating but it’s his collected moments, his calculating
moments which make him memorable. Mark my words this kid is going
to have a long and successful career in the horror genre.

Lastly the effects and makeup are absolutely stupendous. The effects used for Brandon’s powers are truly unbelievable. With his heat vision, flight and all the destruction he wreaks with them makes it seem like the film
had a larger budget. However the budget is only six million and the filmmakers managed to make it look bigger and grander then it’s small
budget would suggest. The makeup and gore effects are also effective.
I tend to like gory movies and as such it would take a lot to cause me to
even flinch. Brightburn didn’t make me flinch, he caused me to reel in
disgust. The more practical effects are startling and grim looking painful and realistic while the minimal use of CG gore is used to it’s greatest
potential as one moment in particular shocked me so much that I gasped out loud in the theater. Even John Wick 3 wasn’t this visceral. With such
good gore effects and even kills Brightburn is truly not for the faint of
heart.

Final Thoughts: While it doesn’t reach it’s full potential Brightburn is still a very entertaining horror film and an interesting “What If” Superman
film. The story is tense and has some good ideas, the acting is done very well, the effects are amazing and the finale is a well earned payoff to the whole film. It isn’t for everyone but if a dark and gory subversion of one of our more beloved heroes is up your alley then check out Brightburn.

Verdict: 3/5

About the Author

Good day to you, my name is Jonathan Gonzalez. For years I've loved movies and have been reviewing them for years, ever since I first saw Roger Ebert on Ebert and Roeper during my freshman year of high school for the first time. I am a graduate of Mercy College with a Bachelor's in Journalism and I have Asperger's Syndrome, something I am truly proud of.

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