Review: You Don’t Need X-Ray Vision To See Through BRIGHTBURN

Brightburn (Jackson A. Dunn) stars in Screen Gems' BRIGHTBURN. Credit: Boris Martin. Courtesy Sony Pictures. © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Brightburn is a new horror film directed by David Yarovesky (The Hive) and produced by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy). The movie is about a boy who, shortly after his twelfth birthday, discovers that he was adopted by his family after crash landing on Earth in a mysterious spaceship, sending him into a violent rage.

The story of the film is undeniably intriguing, and an idea which many comic fans have explored in their minds. It isn’t uncommon for comics to present alternate realities in which the superheroes find themselves in different circumstances that result in them exhibiting different behaviors. For example, the DC mini-series Superman: Red Son has a story similar to this one and was widely acclaimed.

Unfortunately, the movie fails to do anything with that appealing premise. There is so much room for the film to have been more than what it is, such as actually having something to say, but instead, the movie feels straightforward and bland. Also extremely frustrating is the fact that what is basically the entirety of the film’s story (along with all of the most fun moments), were revealed in the trailers.

Additionally, the movie struggles to create characters that are particularly sympathetic. The film obviously wants the main character, Brandon, to feel like he is in a moral grey area, and doesn’t succeed in so doing. It is easy to see Brandon’s evil, but there isn’t enough done to make him compelling. We needed to see more good within him for him to have a compelling arc. Brandon’s parents, on the other hand, are mostly likable, but show very little growth until the very end of the movie.

Mrs. Breyer (Elizabeth Banks) in Screen Gems’ BRIGHTBURN. Credit: Boris Martin. Courtesy Sony Pictures. © 2019 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

However, perhaps the single biggest issue with this film is that it can’t fully decide what it wants to be. The movie frequently attempts to go full horror, and these moments don’t work particularly well. Even the jump scares are ineffective for the most part, with only one being truly surprising and startling. The film is at its best when it tries to go for a more atmospheric thriller vibe, but those moments are few and far between.

That being said, although the script was disappointing, the execution was very impressive and almost makes it worth seeing the movie. The visuals are great, especially for a low-budget horror film. One or two CGI shots aren’t quite up to par, but there are a ton of cool visuals throughout. The scene in the diner (sadly shown by the trailers nearly in its entirety) is likely the best part of the movie, with a ton of creative cinematography.

The actors all do a solid job in the film too. Elizabeth Banks and David Denman have great chemistry together. Although their respective emotionally-driven moments are a bit over-the-top, they do fit their characters quite well. The child actor, Jackson A. Dunn, is great in his role. His ability to convey emotions with few lines was quite impressive.

Overall, Brightburn was a largely disappointing movie. Although it looks pretty great, the story is sorely lacking and fails to take advantage of its potential. General audiences will be bored and superhero fans will be better off waiting for Freaks to see a superhero horror film.

Brightburn is now playing in theaters.

By Sean Boelman

Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

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