Comic books had several decades before the dark side of heroics — remember the grim and gritty eighies? — became a big deal. There have been comics like Watchmen, MiracleMan and Rick Veitch’s Maximortal that showed exactly what would happen if superheroes were either not raised properly or left unchecked.
Brightburn feels really close to those last two books, but allows superhero movies to finally find their dark side.
Produced by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, Slither) and written by his cousin Mark and brother Brian, Brightburn is all about Brandon Breyer (ah, an alliterative nickname, well done comics fans), who is really an alien who crash landed in a Kansas town where his adoptive parents Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman) have tried to raise him as normally as possible. Then again, there’s that spaceship he crash landed in, hidden in the barn, that keeps calling to him.
Brandon has turned into an overachiever in school, which means that he’s shunned by the other kids, except for a girl named Caitlyn. However, his nascent puberty and realitization that his powers make him superior to humanity mean that things won’t end happily for anyone involved.
This movie ended up being way better than I had hoped, moving into more horror movie than superheroic effort. The scenes of Brandon’s abilities being used on normal flesh and blood humans are incredibly startling. There’s also a glass to the eye scene that would have made Lucio Fulci proud.
If the school that Brandon attends looks familiar, that’s because it’s Patrick Henry High School in Stockbridge, Georgia, the same school where seasons 1 and 2 of Stranger Things were filmed.
In the end credits, Michael Rooker plays a YouTube conspiracy theorist named the Big T. He shows what is basically a dark version of the Justice League, with a sea creature instead of Aquaman, a witch with ropes who could be Wonder Woman, an alien being and even the Crimson Bolt, who was Rainn Wilson’s character in James Gunn’s movie Super.
Brightburn is an intriguing take on superhero movies. Just be prepared — this has more gore than nearly every movie we’ve seen this year.