By Dave B.
Brightburn (2019, currently on Starz) asks the question: what if Superman were a psychopath instead of a savior? Brightburn shows this through the story of 12-year old Brandon Breyer. Brandon was discovered by a loving family, just like Clark Kent was. But Brandon is no Clark. He has all of Superman’s powers, but none of his empathy or self-control.
In some ways, Brightburn is a great movie. Purely as a gory thriller, it completely works, largely because Superman (or a Superman analogue, in this case) would be the most terrifying villain imaginable. Realistically, there’s nothing anyone could do to stop him and Brightburn does an excellent job of conveying the pure despair and terror that Brandon’s victims face.
Despite the ways in which it works, Brightburn is disappointing because it’s not the movie that I wanted it to be. Yes, that’s on me, I admit. But to my mind, it’s too obvious that Superman as a villain is frightening. If that’s the entire point of your movie, you’ve basically wasted 90 minutes of potentially taking deeper look at things like the philosophical debate over nature vs nurture, or a psychological study of the effect of power on psychopathy, or a theological debate on whether God hates humankind. Basically, my point is that Brightburn could have addressed any number of interesting topics under the guise of a Superman slasher flick and it chose to do none of them.
Ultimately, the problem with Brightburn is that it makes no effort to be more than what it is and therefore it’s a disappointment. Comic books and their characters (at least the interesting ones, the iconic ones) have always been about more than just whatever trouble is happening in the story at the moment. Brightburn is not. So, it just doesn’t feel that special. I do recommend it, but grudgingly and only for fans of horror/thrillers and extreme gore. Be forewarned: Brightburn graphically shows some pretty horrific injuries, so if that’s a red flag for you, give it a pass. Fundamentally, nothing about you, your world, or even your perspective will be any different whether you choose to watch Brightburn or not, and that’s exactly the problem with it.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.