Film Review: Brightburn

Frances Winston reviews Brightburn, a film in the sci-fi horror genre

Directed by: David Yarovesky – Starring: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner, Gregory Alan Williams, Jennifer Holland, Steve Agree, Becky Wahlstrom, Christian Finlayson

An alien baby is found by a childless couple, who raise them as their own, but when he hits 12 and the ship he arrived in awakens, it triggers something in him, and it becomes obvious that he has some special gifts.

No, this isn’t Superman, or a Superman spin-off, although you could be forgiven for thinking that from the premise. In fact, Brightburn is a sci-fi horror offering, that boasts Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn as a producer. Given his love of the super-hero and sci-fi genre, it is not an understatement to say that hopes were high for this.

Where Brightburn veers from the Superman-style story is that instead of saving humanity, the child, Brandon (Dunn), goes on somewhat of a rampage triggered by a message from the ship telling him to “take the world”, and even his adoptive parents aren’t safe from his wrath. In case you were wondering, the title of the movie is the name of the town the family live in, rather than a reference to the child’s powers. However, the posters do make this look somewhat misleading.

Overall, Brightburn disappoints somewhat. While it does offer a refreshing subversion of the super-hero genre, it doesn’t really follow through on any of the promises in its set-up. Banks is great as Brandon’s adoptive mother, but is completely wasted here. Dunn is suitably sinister as Brandon, but it feels like ‘villain by numbers’ at times, which is probably down to Yarovesky’s direction, rather than his artistic choices. Overall, the script doesn’t really give the actors a lot to work with.

There is nothing special about the effects – we’ve seen them all before – and the story itself is one that we’ve seen before (I refer you back to my superman references).

Brightburn had the potential to be great, but it loses its way around the same time that Brandon discovers his gifts. It is OK, but there is probably not enough of any of the referenced genres to satisfy fans. It’s not quite a full-on horror, nor is it strictly full-on sci-fi.

There are very few surprises, and you see most of the ‘twists’ coming a mile away. There are one or two Easter Eggs which reference previous Gunn work, which should keep super eagle-eyed fans engaged, but for the average cinema-goer, Brightburn will merely be a distraction for 90 minutes.

If Brightburn were the work of a debut filmmaker, with an inexperienced cast, I would probably hail it as a great first effort, but given the calibre of those involved, this really falls short of what you would expect.

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