We don’t need another hero
“He’s not here to save the world.”
Director: David Yarovesky / Writers: Brian Gunn & Mark Gunn / Cast: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner, Gregory Alan Williams, Becky Wahlstrom, Emmie Hunter, Annie Humphrey.
Body Count: 6 (+268)
I was over superhero movies about twelve minutes into the first Avengers film. Overwrought FX-dependant three-hour epics; all this DC vs Marvel bollocks; online cry babies whining about liberal agendas every time a female character isn’t a cowering wreck; reboot after reboot after reboot; TV spin-offs; “we’re going darker”; a gazillion heroes nobody outside of the comic book store ever heard of… JUST. FUCK. OFF.
…Except X-Men. You can stay.
The news that Brightburn would be an anti-hero flick barely registered with me (I mean, how many times have various directors declared they’re making ‘more than just another superhero movie’?), until my good pal Ross caught the international cut in Amsterdam and informed me it was pretty much a slasher flick. Yes. Finally.
International cut, you say? Why, yes. The BBFC indicated the original version would warrant an 18 certificate, so the distributor pre-cut some of the grue and language to snag a more audience friendly 15. And on DVD? The cut version, unless you have 4K SuperMegaDVD, the only place the original has been made available.
Never fear, it’s still quite grisly as we enter the world of the Breyer family: Dad Kyle, Mom Tori, and 12-year-old Brandon, who fell to earth inside a spaceship a decade earlier and was taken in by the childless couple and raised as any other regular human kid on their farm in the town of Brightburn. Around his birthday, the ship, secured in a locked section of the barn, begins glowing and calling out to Brandon, telling him to do things. Baaaad things.
And so, as Kyle and Tori mistake his sudden mood changes for the dreaded onset of puberty, Brandon discovers his powers by killing a lawnmower, breaking the hand of the only girl who (up until then) was nice to him, and then going after her mom after he’s suspended from school over the incident. So it goes, anyone who doesn’t fold to Brandon’s will finds themselves on the lethal end of his significant superhero abilities. There’s a particularly effective scene with his uncle in his truck, which results in a sticky lost mandible. Ouch. This scene, and the shard of glass in the eye, were trimmed for the UK cut.
Eventually, Kyle and Tori begin to suspect their lil baby is the one responsible, after all he pretty much leaves his initials at every kill scene. But how do you kill Superman? They know virtually nothing of where he came from and it’s not like Brandon’s been clued in. This question kind of hangs over Brightburn in a difficult way: Whereas the tiresome opus of the standard superhero flick has the gifted one up against a villain until one of them is defeated and the humans saved, here there is no other super to pit Brandon against, it’s one big pre-teen tantrum that a time-out won’t solve.
Harking back to the not-dissimilar Chronicle, it works fine as an – ugh – ‘origin story’ and had the film done better at the box office, a sequel or two would be guaranteed. As it stands, producer James Gunn has said it’s ‘been discussed’, but this seems like a niche within a juggernaut of a genre where anything less than world dominating success is seen as a failure, so who knows?
As a standalone, it feels a little short, and like a couple of scenes have been missed: Brandon is hinted at as being a victim of bullies in school, but this is never again touched upon. Some more low-level vengeance incidents building his sinister silhouette might well have done the trick, rather than his pretty much overnight transformation from good kid to little super-psycho.
A good film, not boring, but maybe just a little lacking in depth in places, and still way better than the prospect of the probable Infinity War reboot we’re getting in 2028.