What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister?
He’s Not Here To Save The World.
Brightburn is essentially the Superman origin story, had Supes not been the earnest jobsworth that he is – and had been bad to the bone instead. Which is a cool direction to take such a well-known and well-loved story.
Tori (Banks) and Kyle Breyer (Denman) long for a child of their own. One night they get a visit from a mysterious meteorite that crash lands in the middle of their farm. Several years later we meet their son Brandon (Dunn), a slightly odd (soon to be) twelve-year-old doted on by his adoring mother.
Brandon as it happens is on the cusp of his teen years but clearly doesn’t fit in with the other kids. Mildly bullied by his peers, he finds comfort in his classmate Caitlyn (Emmie Hunter), who tells him smart guys get into good schools. Brandon also likes to doodle which might be a detail we’ll come back to later.
On Brandon’s twelfth birthday, something changes dramatically. He starts reacting to something the Breyers have stored in the barn. He’s woken in the night and drawn to the locked hatch that leads to this mysterious secret. It’s not a spoiler to say that it is of course an alien spacecraft of some kind. The very craft that delivered Brandon to earth from wherever it is he came from.
So Brandon is special in every sense of the word and his parents grow frightened that he’s about to discover his unique origin. Unfortunately, this awakening in Brandon – stirred up by an alien transmission from the ship – has a very negative effect on the boy. Shit starts to go down as he finally starts to figure out a few things for himself.
Brandon becomes creepier and creepier, behaving inappropriately around Caitlyn and, after lashing out violently, ends up in session with his aunt, the school councilor Merilee McNichol (Meredith Hagner). Along with her husband Noah (Matt Jones), Merilee forms Brandon’s small family unit. Which is shame when the McNichols become more concerned about the changes in their nephew, with devastating consequences.
When local diner owner Erica (Becky Wahlstrom) goes missing after what looks like a robbery at the restaurant, Sheriff Deever (Gregory Alan Williams) finds some intriguing evidence at the scene. But what does it mean? Well, there aren’t many surprises here in terms of twists and turns, Brandon is a bad guy with a mission to “Take the world” – whatever the cost. But is there still good in him, as his hopeful mother suggests?
Well, I enjoyed this much more than anticipated. If I’m honest, the trailer gives away a lot but there is enough in the film to make up for it. The most notable thing about Brightburn is how relentlessly (and deliberately) gory it is. Like for real, I had to watch several of the scenes through fanned fingers. There’s one scene that turned my stomach enough for me to put down the giant chocolate buttons, which is no mean feat.
Elizabeth Banks is terrific. I really bought her as a mother who will stop at nothing to protect her kid. It’s devastating to go through the gamut of emotion that she does, as the penny drops about what a turd her boy is. Pretty sure he never told her to fuck off when she asked him to mow the lawn though, Timothy James Martin.
Ultimately, however this isn’t the most memorable movie of all time. Dunn doesn’t have a lot of range as an actor yet – and that does affect things. I get that he’s strange but I would have liked to feel some empathy for him. I really do appreciate how little we know about where he’s from and what may happen next. And the climax was great, dark as shit and poignant.
Special shout out to the brilliant Michael Rooker in his pre-credit scenes. As conspiracy theorist The Big T, he sites several sightings of other familiar comic book characters around the world, including a witch that strangles people with ropes… I want to hear more about her.