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  Brightburn Deadlier Than A Speeding Bullet
Year: 2019
Director: David Yarovesky
Stars: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Meredith Hagner, Matt Jones, Emmie Hunter, Gregory Alan Williams, Annie Humphrey, Becky Wahlstrom, Terence Rosemore, Jennifer Holland, Steve Agee, Stephen Blackheart, Christian Finlayson, Michael Rooker
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Twelve years ago, at this farmhouse just outside of the smalltown of Brightburn in Kansas, a younger couple were trying for a baby, but despite their dedication had not produced any pregnancies. Tori (Elizabeth Banks) was still keen, but one night when she took her husband Kyle (David Denman) to bed they were interrupted when she thought she heard a noise outside. Suddenly the building was rocked by an impact in the nearby forest, and they rushed out to see what it was... which brings us up to date, where their son Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) was attending the local school and proving a promising student, though his intelligence was setting him apart from his fellow pupils...

The concept of Superman arriving on Earth as a baby and brought up by a painfully ordinary couple who instil in him the American values of truth, justice and "the American way" (whatever that last refers to, specifically) is a hugely potent one, conjured up by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster as a perfect modern myth, and with such power that superhero stories remain a huge draw in popular culture well into the next millennium. But every archetype has its variations, even its critics, and in the middle of the Trump presidency that American way did not seem to be quite as laudable as it had been back in the nineteen-thirties: would a space child raised in this century be the same?

Or would he have been corrupted by the culture he experienced around him, where the worst impulses and views of humanity were given free rein across the media, both current affairs and social on the internet? Could any child grow up to be pure of heart in the current, apocalyptic mood immediately post-millennium? You may argue that plenty of young folks see the world as something they can change for the better, the environmental movement was evidence of that, but the fear that even they would be corrupted by the time they were making the decisions in society was one which Brightburn considered: Brandon does not start the film as a force of evil, he is transformed gradually.

However, it may well be his destiny that he is on Planet Earth to bring about its Armageddon, sent here from the stars (it is never specified where) to lay waste to humanity in Biblical punishment, just as Superman was a messianic figure here to bring hope and decency, vanquishing the wickedness that is always threatening to take over completely. In this telling, curiously one short step away from Zack Snyder's ultra-destructive Superman, Brandon will actively encourage it. With that in mind, that this film was an anti-Superman story, you would find yourself one step ahead of every character here, which had the effect of rendering its drama predictable, and while it was a solid premise (not original to this, either) it might not have been enough to truly capitalise on what came across like the opening chapter of a television series rather than a picture in its own right, though there was a reason for that.

Banks was the biggest star here, though she had never "opened" a movie she was in she was a familiar face and audiences liked her, yet a draw for a horror movie she was not. This was tied to the James Gunn brand, as he produced and his brother and cousin wrote the screenplay: reliable superhero storytellers, and that was what the publicity advertised. Despite that, Brightburn was not a blockbuster by any means, it had recognition but did merely fair business, so why was it surprisingly profitable? It was down to Gunn's savvy with the budget: a relatively tiny $6million, which would have delivered a nice little television miniseries on the same subject, yet here was in the service of a gimmicky horror flick of the sort that were ten a penny on the streaming services. With a higher profile release than those, even on the same budget level to an extent, this demonstrated a killer idea can be all you need to pick up a following, and this did, it was by no means a bad movie, simply a truncated plot. So perhaps with that in mind, Brightburn was a better effort than the jaded would have it. Music by Tim Williams.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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