As is too often the case, the editors who cut together the trailers for this movie should’ve been the ones who cut together the movie itself — maybe scripted and directed it too. Because then I might’ve left the theater with what I came for: the story of a tormented alien child discovering his power and struggling with the choice between doing good by the loving family who raised him or giving in to his destructive impulses.
But what I got instead was a super-psychopathic boy named Brandon with absolutely nothing stopping him (even Superman had kryptonite) from laying waste to everyone just because. There is a brief hint, a whiff really, of an internal struggle with the alien pod he was found in commanding him to “TAKE THE WORLD” but he almost immediately gives in to it and an unbroken sequence of carnage follows to the end of the film. No conflict whatsoever. The audience is reduced to mere spectators of a predictable extermination manifested by Brandon’s unflinching belief in his absolute superiority over lesser creatures that annoy him. You might as well be watching how sausage is made — the story is just as linear.
Maybe if his victims were deserving, I could give Brandon a sympathetic pass. But he’s razzed a little once in class by some kids that we never follow up with. No, instead he stalks the girl who initially comes to his defense, crushes her hand after she is told to help him up after he falls because she’s creeped out by his stalking her and then disembowels her mother who’s rightfully pissed that a creepy kid injured her daughter. His uncle gifts him a BB gun for his birthday that his dad forbids but, fuck it, let’s kill the uncle to teach a lesson to the aunt, his school counselor who expresses concern over his lack of remorse for crushing the hand of a girl who interests him. His parents love and support him right up to the point they learn beyond all doubt and denial that he’s a monster, soon after which they are annihilated in futile attempts to either appeal to or end him.
And it’s not as though you’re invested in any of these flat characters. They don’t do or say anything to make you care one way or the other what terrible fate Brandon has in store for them. They’re just fodder. Two-dimensional targets lined up in a shooting gallery.
Okay, fine. All the dumb kids in teen slasher movies like Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elmstreet and Halloween are just fodder too. Yeah, but they’re annoying and we cheer for Jason, Freddy and Michael Myers to relieve us of them. We’re invested in them — to die! It’s ironic. There’s dark humor.
No such luck with Brightburn. No clever dialog. No irony. No groan-worthy bad jokes. Lot of jump-scares but no suspense really. Nothing memorable. Well, I did like shots from the POV of woman in the diner after pulling glass out of her eye — that was one of the things that compelled me to watch this flick. Like Trinity running up a wall in slow-mo to escape bullets in The Matrix — you can bet I’m watching that movie! But Brightburn turned out to be one of those movies where shit happens and I’m already forgetting what I just watched before I exit the theater.
It’s a shame too. I really liked the idea of an “evil” Superman origin story. Of a horror supervillain genre after the buttload of Skittles-vomit superhero movies that burned me out over the last decade. I wanted to like it. And I wouldn’t have minded it ending the way it did if it just took a more interesting winding path with at least one plot twist to get there. But nothing. Maybe there’s a directors cut with more meat to sink my teeth into?
⭐⭐ ★ ★ ★