The superhero genre has become a cinea staple over the last decade with dozens of movies being released every year and every studio trying to secure the next big franchise. Marvel changed the game with Deadpool releasing a meta anti hero opening up for the possibility of something different. Fortunately here we are with the first horror movie based around the origin of story of Superman, sometimes even shot for shot in this film. Brightburn successfully gives a superhero origin with a gory and horrific twist that manages to entertain and terrify into a type of superhero movie that we definitely want to see more of.
This story follows the Breyer family as Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and her husband Kyle (David Denman) find a child and spaceship in the woods one night near their farm. They raise the child as their own and Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) starts realising his own strength and alien origins. When he makes the transition from sweet kid to terrifying killer noone in the town is safe, particularly those who upset him.
Centering a film around a child is no east feat. You really need to find the right child actor to be able to carry the film, particularly as the main character. Dunn is perfect as Brandon delivering both the sweet and innocent child and easily switching to the scared and evil villain side flawlessly. Part of what makes this film work so well is the relationship between Tori and Brandon. Exploring their history as they struggled to have children after their marriage, you can see the sheer joy that Brandon’s existence brings in every scene with Tori.
The standout here is Elizabeth Banks who shines in this dramatic role. She conveys the pure joy that having her a family and Brandon gives her. The chemistry between her and Dunn is incredible. While other elements of the movie do bring things to a bit of a halting pace, their scenes together always manage to pull the audience back into the story and what is happening. In addition Banks and Denman are a fantastic couple. Their life and home together is authentic and their plight to complete their family with a child is the heart of the story.
Visually this film is fantastic. The images are directly comparable to Superman and Man Of Steel with many nods to Superman’s history in both film and comic books. The special effects are impressive with Brandon flying, using his laser vision and general destruction feels blockbuster level. The cinematography is gorgeous with the locations in Georgia selling the farm setting. There are some incredible shots here with Brandon’s clothes reflecting his transition into villain with a white t shirt and then trasitioning into a red hoodie as he turns. There is a particular scene in a diner where half of the vision is red and Brandon manages to stay in this half of the frame. It’s these little visual nods that contribute to the aesthetic of the film.
There are some parts in the middle where it does slow down a bit. They try to add a mystery element to the film about Brandon’s origins and motivations that don’t always work. Fortunately there is enough greatness in the 1st and 3rd act to make this a film worth seeing. Going hand in hand with the visuals is the audio of the film. The sound effects, particularly when Brandon’s ship is calling him in the middle of the night is creepy and frightening. The bass that pounds and increases as the intensity reaches its climax is one of the high points of the film.
Overall Brightburn is a horror take on a well worn super hero origin story. By flipping the narrative and focusing on relationships, the film delivers a solid entry for its first installment in this type of superhero film. Banks delivers one of the best performances of her career as a devoted mother and the perfect casting of Dunn as Brandon solidifies this as a classic. The intensity of the visuals and sound combine with the horror and gore elements surprisingly work. Brightburn is the surprise of this year and is currently playing in Australian cinemas.
Review by Alaisdair Leith