Tag-Line: He’s not here to save the world.
Release Date: 2019.
Director: David Yarovesky.
Written By: Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn.
Cast: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn and Emmie Hunter.
Running Time: 1 hour and 31 minutes.
One of my favourite comic book series was What If? by Marvel Comics. In every issue they would explore controversial scenarios playing them out to their fullest. What if Spider-Man had joined the Fantastic Four? What if someone else besides Spider-Man had been bitten by the radioactive spider? What if Conan the Barbarian walked the earth today? What if Gwen Stacy had lived? These and other curious questions would be answered in the series which took place in an alternate Marvel universe, an alternate timeline.
Although pulling from the rival DC universe, the horror superhero movie Brightburn, produced by James Gunn of Guardians of the Galaxy fame and written by his brother Brian and cousin Mark, is a story which would fit perfectly in the What If? series although the filmmakers should have given credit to Superman creators American Jerry Siegel and Canadian-American Joe Shuster because without them they wouldn’t have had a story to crib from.
If Brightburn were a What If? issue the title would be…What if Superman were a crazed, deranged, evil, killer psychopath? And that is Brightburn’s greatest failing. The story is too familiar to even those who have never read a comic book.
Stop me if you have heard this all before. A good-hearted couple (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) cannot have baby. We know this because of the collection of fertility books they own which rivals that of the Library and Archives of Canada. As luck would have it, a spaceship carrying an orphan alien child crash lands near their home.
Before you can say Mister Mxyzptlk, the child is adopted and raised by his grateful Earthling parents who shower him with love and support.
So far, so good, right? Wrong.
In Brightburn, Superman’s origin story takes a wrong turn at Albuquerque when bratty Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) discovers he has super powers and is an outer space orphan. His reaction is to become Jason Voorhees without the machete, butcher knife, spear gun, weed wacker, crossbow, hunting knife, ice pick, axe or hacksaw.
None of this makes any sense and neither does much of Brightburn. Even though Brandon has been raised to be a caring child, all it takes is a few bullies, the revelation that his parents technically lied to him about where it is he comes from and the fact that he can barbecue steaks with his eye beams to go psycho.
To be fair, the escape pod does exert some control over Brandon making him (and us too unfortunately) listen to really annoying garbled voices beckoning him to the dark side. However, when Brandon decides to stalk a female classmate, slaughter a barn full of chickens and commit other appalling and vile acts dressed in a homemade cape and mask, it is made clear that Brandon is in full control.
We are asked to believe that his wiring just fried, like when his mother asks him if the death of a loved one upsets him. A stoic Brandon asks if he is supposed to cry as if he doesn’t know what the proper response should be after living as a normal human being for the past 12 years on Earth. Unlike Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in The Shining which we suspected something was wrong with him right off the bat because the off-kilter Nicholson was cast in the starring role, Jackson A. Dunn is portrayed as a shy, wholesome kid whose most rebellious act is hiding from his mother when he is supposed to be getting ready for school.
As it turns out, Stupid Boy is also the world’s worst criminal making Sportsmaster look like Lex Luthor. He covers up his crimes with elaborate stories yet he signs his initials at each of the crime scenes so that the Keystone Cop police force can show up guns blazing just in time for the film’s finale.
The way in which Brandon stalks his victims, like Michael Myers bitten by a radioactive spider, is senseless as well. Creeping around, messing around with the lights, knocking on doors, setting off alarms, instead of just zipping in and knocking their heads off with the flick of a finger is goofy to watch. One could argue he is toying with his prey but how likely is it that anyone with such immense power would waste their time with such nonsense?
As Tywin Lannister once said: ”A lion doesn’t concern itself with the opinion of sheep.”
Adding to the wall-to-wall idiocy are Brandon’s parents who refuse to believe it was their son in the library with a red power ring even though they have witnessed him floating in mid-air while mind melding with the glowing red escape pod in their barn and intentionally mangling a student’s hand with the strength of Wonder Woman.
Although the idea of twisting a time-honoured superhero story could be clever the way in which these filmmakers do is not as most of the script is so predictable. The movie they should have made would have been an actual superhero movie. Trace Brandon’s rise to infamy, whether he decides to come out of hiding or not, and the world’s and maybe a hero’s steps to stop him, like a Godzilla movie of sorts. Anything would be better than the unoriginal, predictable story they decided to tell. What If, indeed.
Chickens get plucked.
Guts are ripped out.
Gory truck drop.
Airplane crash killing 268 people.
Dropped from the sky without a parachute.
Laser eyes through the brain.
Two victims splattered to the wind.
Tori: Whatever you’ve done, I know there is good inside you!
Kyle: He’s not our son!
Brandon: I know I am something else, something superior.
Disembodied voices: Take the world!
Pints of Blood