Brightburn review – a punchy movie with brief moments of genius


Cast: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner. Directed by: David Yarovesky.

If you look at the poster for Brightburn, it very proudly proclaims to be from visionary producer James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy. But, this is not a ‘Gunn film’, this is something he is only partially involved in.

Brightburn is a fun concept, taking pretty heavily the Superman mythos and at the point at which he would become a hero, turning him into a villain. Jackson A. Dunn is Brandon Breyer, an adopted kid found one night at the Breyer family farm by parents Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denmam).

Liberally, the film is aping the whole Superman thing, the farm, the Kansas upbringing but the nexus point of the story is when puberty kicks in, perhaps a little too on the nose it becomes something of a puberty allegory but never fully investigates it, and that might be the flaw of the film.

There is no doubt fun to be had in taking the tropes of a superhero and twisting them – it’s not an original concept, Gunn himself flipped it with the underrated Super starring Rainn Wilson, as well as Unbreakable and Split being versions of comic book movies.

Elizabeth Banks in Brightburn

Elizabeth Banks in Brightburn

The writing is pretty decent from Mark and Brian Gunn, James’ cousin and brother respectively, although it’s far too concerned with being a somewhat generic horror film to ever get into the mind set of what could happen should superman turn on us. There’s little devolution to Brandon’s descent into evil, it’s more a he’s fine, then he’s not sort of thing which robs the film of any dramatic tension.

The direction from David Yarovesky is solid enough, it apes the Zack Snyder style of Man of Steel well enough, but there all too much reliance of jump scares than building fear. Though, when it comes to nasty gore, the film is not afraid to go for gold.

The performances are all solid, the central three are all great with Elizabeth Banks giving a great turn as the mother who is both loving but scared, and some of the more sinister moments are played great by Denman and Dunn.

If the climax has moments of brilliance, and it does, it gestures towards a bigger raspberry blow to the DC universe with a credit sting that could really be some fun – and in a way that’s what the film needs more of – fun. Some great moments are character beats, including Banks’ discovery of a book that details drawings of Brandon’s evil deeds, as well as his alien chant translating as Take the World.

The film therefore is an enjoyable romp, for those who like things a little dark but it feels like there could have been a darker movie, a nastier movie and that there might be deleted scenes that explain the weird chanting of the alien spaceship and maybe fleshed out a subplot with a young classmate. But even so, Banks delivers the goods of her performance and at 90 minutes it’s a punchy movie that gets in there and out, and has moments of genius.

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