Not Bright Enough
(MA15+) Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn
The idea of inverting the Superman mythos and presenting a dark version of the character is one that has been explored. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s Irredeemable is among a wealth of material that takes the Last Son of Krypton’s story and turns it on its head, asking what a world would look like with a violent or evil Superman.
Brightburn is the latest attempt at such a story. Despite many strong elements and a stellar cast, the film fails to match the strength of its concept.
Much like Superman, Brightburn is the story of a boy who crashed to earth from outer space, adopted by a couple in a small rural community. Where Superman’s moral development leads him to use these gifts in the service of others, Brightburn’s super-powered character has no such self-imposed limits. The power inversion prevalent in the gospel is nowhere to be found, as the child starts to consider himself to be superior to others because of his newfound super strength and the ability to fly.
Part of what makes this such a disappointing film is the lack of a coherent arc for the main character, his journey to evil lacking any real sense of progression. While there are a few key episodes to explain his path, these are not fleshed out to any real extent.
Some of the more gory scenes are entirely gratuitous (one involving glass going into an eye) standing out as trying too hard to be edgy.
None of this is to suggest that Brightburn is, like its main villain, inherently bad. It has almost all of the material necessary to make a great film. The cool concept, special effects, camera work, and performances make for a creepy horror that is genuinely unnerving. With some more judicious editing, and driving towards a more consistent point, it could have been something great.
In the absence of these, Brightburn fails to catch alight.
Far more thoughtful attempts at this kind of story exist. Irredeemable stands out as a complex and complete story that drives towards an interesting endpoint.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor