For a brief moment back in May it looked like the makers of “Brightburn” had made yet another superhero movie. They marketed it as a mix of horror and strong people in capes and even used the tagline “Evil has a superhero.”
Then the movie was released, stumbled at the box office and is now patiently waiting to be released to home video. Basically, it’s the Superman origin story with the twist of Superman being a bad seed from the start.
This isn’t something new. There have been a lot of “other world” stories about Superman being a bad guy, the most well known perhaps being “Red Son,” where it was asked what would have happened if Superman’s rocket had crashed in Russia instead of the heartland of Kansas?
“Brightburn” doesn’t get that far into the story of Krypton’s favorite son, concentrating on this particular alien child discovering not only that he has super powers, but he’s also not a very nice kid.
Tori and Kyle Brewer are a Kansas couple desperately trying but failing to start a family when something crashes into the woods around their farm. They go to see what happened, but before they find out the film jumps 12 years into the future and the Brewer’s have their son Brandon, who is a little weird, but what 12 year old boy isn’t?
Brandon soon discovers he’s not like other kids when he gets frustrated with a push lawn mower that won’t start and throws it out in a field in anger. Despite being thrown that far, the mower somehow starts in midair and stays started once it hits the ground. Brandon goes to the lawn mower and betting that he’s also indestructible, grabs the blade of the upside down mower and stops it without hurting himself.
Now, anybody who’s ever mowed anything but a perfect yard, knows that if a mower blade hits something it can’t cut, it’ll immediately stop. Here, for dramatic purposes, I suppose, the blade pushes against Brandon’s hand until the motor stops with a giant poof of black smoke and a grinding sound.
Anyway, Brandon has a crush on a girl, but he creeps her out and she calls him a pervert one day and Brandon responds by crushing her hand. When the mother of the unfortunate girl asks the Brewer’s where their creepy adopted son came from, we learn, through flashback, that what crashed in the woods was a small spaceship containing a baby.
And now there’s no doubt this is a simple retelling of the Superman beginnings. Brandon gets worse and worse until he’s killing people, teasing them mercilessly before he finishes them. If the filmmaker (David Yarovesky is the director) was trying to show that a touchy kids who DOESN’T like to be told what to do shouldn’t be given super powers, he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. You’ll undoubtedly come to think Brandon is a super brat above all else.
The movie doesn’t shy away from horror tropes like blood and inventive ways to die, more than earning its R rating. The most disturbing scene is a woman pulling a shard of glass out of her eyeball, made even worse by the movie’s perspective showing what she’s seeing after she gets the glass out. If you’re squeamish, this may do you in.
Elizabeth Banks playing mother Tori is the most recognizable name here, but you’ll see several faces from TV you recognize, allowing you to play the always fun “where have I seen them?” game.
There’s no attempt at great art here, but if you’ve ever wondered why Superman didn’t just remold the world into what he wanted it to be, you’ll get at least one answer here. It also shows that if an indestructible super being actually showed up on Earth and wanted to take over, there wouldn’t be much we could do about it and that’s a little scary.
“Brightbank,” that’s the name of the Kansas town the Brewer’s live in, isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s honest in that it’s just a re-telling of a much older story. If you like horror and superhero movies you’ll be entertained. And if you’re really entertained, as the closing credits play, there are scenes that seem to indicate there could be a sequel. But don’t hold your breath on that.