It's rated R for being REALLY brutal. I usually abhor this kind of graphic horror, mainly because I think my imagination is probably better than anything that can be thrown on screen. But we've all imagined what Superman could do if he just went ape on people. It's a little bit satisfying, in the darkest possible way, to see it actually happen. All those conversations about what Superman could do to Batman if he was just let off the chain is on screen here. It's really really graphic and I'm not going to sugarcoat any of it. It's intense. Hard R.
DIRECTOR: David Yarovesky
I have so much to say that I'll probably end up saying nothing. When I saw this trailer, I was instantly on board. I've read comic books that have dabbled in what Brightburn accomplishes. It's just that the trailer was cut perfectly. I've mentioned it before, but Man of Steel might be one of my least favorite movies of all time. It's really bad. If you like it, keep liking it. I'm not going to change your mind. Also, you should feel comfortable liking what you like. But when I saw that Brightburn parodied / homaged the Man of Steel trailer, I knew exactly what this film was going to be. The thing about Brightburn is that it doesn't disappoint. And there's a very good reason for it.
The trailer says, "From James Gunn, Director of Guardians of the Galaxy". When I heard that James Gunn was directing Guardians of the Galaxy, I got really nervous. I loathe James Gunn horror movies. They are gross out horror-comedies, really. But I often find myself not laughing and just feeling icky by the end. (Side-note: Do we consider Super to be a horror-comedy? Probably not. But I get the same feeling from that film as well.) James Gunn, when he's not being great at Marvel, is not a great director. I remember hearing that The Belko Experiment was just almost unwatchable. But I watched Brightburn and thought, "Gee, James Gunn may have become a better director since Guardians of the Galaxy." Then the movie ended and it said, "David Yarovesky" and my jaw dropped. What Brightburn accomplishes is that it takes the best elements of James Gunn and balances them really well. Yarovesky is a gross out director. There's a lot of shameless gore in this movie that is absolutely cringeworthy. But the story and the overall filmmaking is actually pretty fun and engaging. My biggest problem with Gunn's horror movies is that I'm rarely all that engaged. I tend to watch them because there are actors I like in the movies. That's a pretty silly reason to watch a torture porn film. Yarovesky gets that his audience wants something over the top. There is a reason that James Gunn's name is all over that trailer. Promotionally, they are attracting both James Gunn's horror audience along with newcomers from the MCU to see another superhero themed movie with his name on it. With all that drama over Guardians 3 and his seeming permanent move to DC, this makes sense to see what Gunn would have been doing free of the Marvel name. But thank goodness Yaronevsky directed this. The movie looks a lot like Snyder's Man of Steel done on a smaller budget.
I was a big Superman fan for a while. I suppose, in a way, I still am. I have a page drawn and inked by Tim Sale on my wall that was part of Superman: Confidential. It's framed and right next to my Superman: The Movie poster that was signed by Margot Kidder. While I really like the overall mythology of Superman, there's something about the Smallville years of Clark Kent that draws my attention. I stayed with the Smallville TV show way too long, so that burnt it out a bit. But like in the way that I find the Shire to be the most fun parts of the Middle Earth stories, seeing an alien grow up amongst humans, learning to be the best that civilization has to offer, is really interesting. I can possibly see a Brightburn of Brandon Breyer in the big city as a sequel, but I am way more interested in Brandon Breyer, pre-teen, murdering everyone. I know. Now I seem like a psychopath who is into murder by little kid. But Superman has always been the argument that nurture, not nature, determines who we are. Mark Millar stressed a lot of that in Superman: Red Son. Yeah, Superman's DNA gives him his powers and even in Russia, Superman ends up being okay. But Brightburn tips that whole argument on its head and stresses the nature element of us. After all, some people are just serial killers, regardless of their parents and upbringing.
There's a line that sells the whole concept really well. It seems really shoehorned in and doesn't seem at all organic, but I really don't care. There's a line where Brandon is in class and the teacher is asking about wasps. When Brandon volunteers information on a predator wasp or something like that, the metaphor attaches itself to the movie perfectly (pun intended). It's such a great description for the whole movie that I actually stopped focusing on the Superman stuff for the entire film and actually watched it with that narrative. It's such an original concept to have the world of the wasp applied to a human element. Brandon is a parasite that no one is aware of. I feel like Zach Snyder, with his continual disdain for Superman, wanted to tell the same story. It's why Snyder stressed the alien elements of Superman in his films. He wanted to have that outsider element. But Snyder was hindered by the fact that Superman still needed to be a hero. Brandon has no epic mythology. I'm actually floored that the movie really takes advantage that it isn't bound by anything. Brightburn is what a satire should be. It takes the barebones of a concept: What if Superman was evil? It gives us midwestern, rural America. It gives us a spaceship. It gives us superpowers. It gives us good parents. The rest is really free reign.
I know my own faults. I know that if I was given this property, I would be tempted to throw in all kinds of Superman stuff. There would be nods to a major metropolitan newspaper. I would have stressed the Lex Luthor thing. I would have had Kal-El and Lara. Everything! Supergirl, Krypto, Conner Kent! All of it. Do you understand the very real temptation to take the deep dive? But no! Brightburn and its crew is smarter than I am. I simply sit in the back and applaud. So many doors are opened by this. Yeah, it's a silly horror movie that has a cameo by Michael Rooker. There's a tease of the Justice League. But this is mostly a movie about evil child Clark Kent and it positively works. I really like this movie. I probably won't watch it again because I can imagine this being terrible for the soul and I don't need to see glass in someone's eye again. But the movie is solid. It has so much working for it. Somehow, the movie has this epic blockbuster scale and still feels remarkably small and low-stakes. I'm on board and would totally watch a sequel.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.