Brightburn follows a couple struggling with fertility that raises a child from a crash-landed spaceship. When the boy reaches 12 years old, he quickly regresses socially and begins to realize he has abilities beyond that of the humans around him. While his adopted parents attempt to hold everything together, the super-powered boy's sanity quickly spirals out of control.
Brightburn is one of those movies that, as a horror fan and a comicbook fan, you just know you're going to enjoy no matter what. Even if it's campy hot-garbage, it will carry itself on the satire of it all. And if it takes its plot and commentary seriously, it will be all-the-more entertaining. Brightburn does a bit of both in true Gunn fashion.
Brightburn executes in so many ways and struggles in a couple. Namely, its pacing doesn't let characters and scenes organically evolve or allow its atmosphere to build naturally. Secondly, it doesn't allow its innate indie style to trust its audience's acuity, giving us visually nuanced revelations in verbally-announced exposition that is not only unnecessary, but pulls you out of the otherwise effective storytelling.
Brightburn does little to hide its concept...what if Superman, and/or the alien race that sent him, were evil? Our little demon child from outer space houses the same superhuman abilities and an all-too-similar origin story that makes it feel like a What If comic one-off brought to life.
Without having to try too hard, and in my opinion the script doesn't, Brightburn addresses a lot of metaphors for life and satire towards heroes and American culture. It tackles puberty, parenting, social anxiety, sociopathic tendencies, comic book culture, hero culture...all in a nice, tidy bow that never intentionally solves any of the symbolism it brings to the table.
Brightburn feels like a horror film through-and-through. Its overall delivery feels a bit too reminiscent of generic horror structure and doesn't stray away from the tried-and-true, seemingly episodic build of violence and moments of realization for lead characters. It's as tiring as a superhero origin story, which at least this film flips on its head.
The kid does a pretty good job for the most part, though a few scenes scream for a couple of extra takes. The rest of the cast rounds out nicely, and I liked the approach to the parents' respective roles and how they evolve and devolve throughout the film in a macabre dance of "will they/won't they?" do something drastic to save the world from their apparently evil super-powered hellion they genuinely loved for 12 years.
The film is full of great moments, and some solid horror set pieces. It had some truly disturbing and violent effects work that consistently reminds you that you are indeed watching a horror movie. The film visually installs a sense of supervillain/alter ego with its camera focus and angles, and it's a nice nuanced touch. The pacing, I think, hurt the overall product in the end as a piece of powerful filmmaking, but it perhaps increased its rewatchability...which is high.