We can’t always assume that babies that crash-land on Earth are from Krypton.
The superhero genre is given a sinister twist in “Brightburn,” by allowing us to acknowledge that not every baby that crash-lands on Earth is from Krypton. This is no Superman; this is a monster disguised as a human boy.
Interestingly enough, I was reminded of an old “Saturday Night Live” skit, which asked the question: “What if Superman was born in Germany?” The answer was: he’d be a Nazi.
We know how Superman’s backstory worked. His planet got destroyed, his parents sent him to Earth, crash-landing in Kansas, and gets adopted by good people. He discovers his superpowers will benefit humanity.
The real question the movie asks is: what if this Superman is a super monster? What if he wants to destroy us? And a post I’ve seen on Facebook is: name a movie in which the villain wins. I didn’t want to respond “Avengers: Infinity War,” because it would be arbitrary. I’ve even checked out an article featuring a Top 10 list, with choices like “No Country for Old Men,” “Alien: Covenant,” and “The Empire Strikes Back.”
“Brightburn” has joined the club.
But like Superman, this alien crash-lands in Kansas, and gets adopted by two would-be parents, Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman). They name him Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn, the 12-year-old Scott Lang in “Avengers: Endgame”), and when he turns 12, things spin out of control.
He breaks a girl’s (Emmie Hunter) hand with his fists, chews a fork, causes blackouts, hears voices (“Take the World”), shoots lasers from his eyes, flies, wears a mask and a cape, and even goes on a killing spree. And like any other adoptive kid, he throws a fit when he finds out Tori and Kyle aren’t his real parents.
They know Brandon is special, and Kyle knows he’s a monster, while Tori is the only one who defends him. This is the part where I admit my irritation about this typical cliche, but it fades away, once she gets it through her head.
No matter what she says: “I know deep down there is good inside you,” don’t even think about getting comfortable.
I’m not sure how movie-goers will take this particular superhero horror genre. They may like it, they make hate it, and they may or may not give it a “C” on Cinemascore. We all loathed the ending to the “Pet Sematary” remake,” and I’ve heard people complaining about Hulk’s Mark Ruffalo look in “Avengers: Endgame.”
But I’m gonna give “Brightburn” a pass. It wants to be different by being evil, and yet, we’re amazed at the guts the filmmakers have. These brave people are director David Yarovesky, producer James Gunn (“Guardians of the Galaxy,” and writers Brian (James’ bro) and Mike (cousin) Gunn. They all go for broke, and it’s well-spent.
Besides, I’ve seen a worse movie of its kind-“Morgan,” a 2016 bomb, which was also about an evil child that people loved, until it goes on a killing spree. That movie was lifeless and irritating; this one is miles better.
Whether we like this kid or not, Jackson A. Dunn does some emotional work at being bad, and pretending to be good. And Elizabeth Banks and David Denman are both likable as his adoptive parents. They have standard family drama, which works well on this particular level.
There are some gruesome moments, given its R-rating, but the special effects are impressive. But mostly, for a small budget film, it wants to be iconic in a sinister sort of way, and I’m already terrified by this kid.
Opens everywhere May 24