"Take the world" - Brandon Breyer
Imagine this – a spacecraft from another planet carrying a lone baby infant crashes to Earth, landing in a field in rural Kansas. The farm is owned by a kindly, childless couple who discover the ship and the baby within. They raise the child as their own, keeping the ship hidden in the basement of their barn, away from prying eyes.
As the child reaches puberty, a strange glowing light calls to the boy one night and he enters the barn to investigate….
Sound familiar? Yes, we’ve seen this back in 1979. Back then, it was called Superman – The Movie. The kid was the young Clark Kent, about to embrace his Kryptonian heritage and become Earth’s guardian, the Man of Steel. Forty years later, the film is Brightburn – and we’re about to take a wholly different journey.
Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn has produced a film that literally turns the whole superhero genre on its head (having done so once before with the vastly under-rated Super (2010). Where all similarities to the Superman legend end right there.
The script, by two of Gunn’s brothers (Brian and Mark Gunn) goes on a “what if” tangent worthy of DC Comics’ Elseworlds series where familiar characters were presented in unfamiliar surroundings or situations or with a strange twist that never happened in the established continuity, for example if Batman had been around in Victorian times (Gotham by Gaslight) or if Superman’s ship had landed him in Soviet Russia instead of Kansas (Red Son). They were always fun to read. But one I don’t recall them ever covering was what if rather than turn out to be the meek, mild mannered Clark Kent, and having the wholesome adventures I remember reading in silver age Superboy back when I was a kid, he had turned out bad? Not just bad as in mischievous, but completely, irrevocably evil?
This is what happens in Brightburn. A film that I hadn’t heard of until Steve told me about an upcoming movie that was “like Superman goes bad”. My reply was “seen it – it’s called Superman III”. His response isn’t fit for a family audience. Then, he showed me an extended trailer that immediately grabbed my attention by the throat, and I knew that we had a film coming in hot, and that it needed to be seen.
Take a look…
Furthermore, as a Gunn family project (directed by Gunn collaborator David Yarovesky) it had the pedigree to be something special.
But back to the plot - what if…? How would you control that situation? Indeed…COULD you control that situation? What would a twelve-year-old do with super strength, flight, heat vision? I remember those Superboy stories where he might get into harmless mischief. But in the REAL world, we all know that kids rarely exercise self-control if they think they can get away with it. Consequences are what inspire self-control. So, if little Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) wants something, he’ll throw you to the other side of the house if you’re in his way. If you get hurt, that’s your problem for not being invincible, not his. If he feels wronged or betrayed by an adult, if he has a pre-teen crush on a girl at school, there’s little dad and mom Kyle & Tori Breyer (David Denman and Elizabeth Banks) can do to stop him. But they will try, as will any parent with a child who inexplicably begins to go off the rails. As I’ve said, there might not be any consequences Brandon can see, but there are nothing BUT consequences for the foster parents who’ve kept the origins of their adopted son quiet for obvious reasons. (“We found him in a rocket in our field – he came from space” won’t hold water with social workers.)
What we have here is the first real superhero horror movie. Unlike some of those films set against a horror/supernatural setting like Spawn or Ghost Rider, this is a genuinely chilling film, high on tension and unease, with an effective use of sparingly used jump scares that should be used as a masterclass for makers of films like Conjuring and Curse of La Llorona.
The gore effects, detailing injury are sometimes hard to watch, because they’re stunningly realistic and again, while sparingly used, they’re far more graphic than I would have expected for a 15 rated film.
Given that it’s the summer blockbuster season and the studios are releasing huge multimillion dollar films on a weekly basis, each vying for a share of the audience’s attention, I’m afraid Brightburn might disappear between the cracks and miss it’s opportunity. I caught it on a preview screening as part of my Unlimited Movie subscription at CineWorld. I’d highly recommend a viewing.
It will make you very nervous of little kids in home made knitted masks and capes.
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