Writers Brian and Mark Gunn posit the following:
What if an alien child crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming some kind of souped-up patriotic Messiah, it totally wanted to kill everybody?
Tori and Kyle Breyer (Elizabeth Banks and The Office alum David Denman) live in Brightburn, Kansas, one of those rural communities where everyone is a farmer and knows or is related to each other. Things are great and all, but the Breyers can’t seem to have a kid. Enter mysterious spaceship carrying weirdly
humanoid baby. We cut 10 years, and they’ve raised the kid as their own, but something starts to awaken in young Brandon (Jackson A Dunn, previously from bit parts in film and television) as he turns 12 (though no one says how we’re supposed to know his age), and it’s not something good.
Brightburn tries to convince us it’s Banks’ film, and to an extent, she’s great as a mother struggling to accept what her kid might be capable of doing. Dunn’s dead-eyed evil, however, does the most heavy lifting. Denman, while probably important to the narrative or something, feels pretty pointless for the most part because, like most everyone else in this movie, he’s basically a foil for Brandon’s evolution. This evolution is particularly irksome, however, because we almost empathize with the tween angst. How might we have done things differently when we were hormone-riddled middle-schoolers if we’d had alien powers? Maybe not with evil, but surely things might have been different. Brandon, meanwhile, goes the straight-up horror route, toying with his prey and unleashing gruesome vengeance wherever he sees fit.
Thus, Brightburn proves an interesting foray into mostly uncharted waters. Oh sure, 2012’s Chronicle asked us to envision what everyday people with newfound powers going rogue might look like, but the Gunn brothers’ take feels more visceral and fun, especially since it might open the door to horror themes within the increasingly homogenized superhero genre. Still, at its core, Brightburn screams its desire to birth a franchise, leaving us with half a movie worth enjoying and half that seems like a money grab.
Will you enjoy Brightburn? Probably, but the potential sequel—and it’s coming, believe me—prematurely robs the first entry from being anything particularly special outside of its admittedly neat premise.
+Cool idea; Dunn is super-creepy
-Something's missing, like the other half of the movie
Directed by David Yarovesky
With Dunn, Banks and Denman
Regal 14, Violet Crown, R, 91 min.