Okay, you guys. You guys! I have a million dollar idea. No, a billion dollar idea! Are you ready? You’re not ready, but here we go: what if–take a moment and think about this–what if… Superman… was evil? I know, right?! Groundbreaking. Revolutionary. Just think about how much–wait, what? WHAT DO YOU MEAN THIS HAS BEEN DONE A THOUSAND TIMES BEFORE?! Fuck… FUCK!! Fine! Whatever! I’ll stick with just talking about movies, then, I fucking guess.
Hyperbole aside, Brightburn is a movie that’s about Superman the same way The Boys is about comic book heroes in general–Brandon Breyer (Mr. Jackson Dunn) crash-landed to Earth as a baby, and around puberty started to develop superhuman powers. His parents–Elizabeth Banks and David Denman–worry about their son, how he’ll adjust to having powers, and how the world will adjust to having a superhuman living in it. Unfortunately, that pitch is the most interesting the movie gets. It takes an overused premise and does nothing exciting with it.
So Brandon’s alien ship contacts him and activates some kind of trigger in his brain, telling him to “take the world.” From there the kid has almost no impulse control, using extreme violence–like, super excessive violence because PG-13 is for pussies, I guess–to solve any potential problem in his way. The girl he likes thinks he’s a pervert for spying on her and says her mom doesn’t want him around? Brutally murder the mom. Your aunt/counselor noticed your newly developed sociopathic tendencies? Threaten her and kill her husband. And now your parents are realizing you’re a god damned monster? Well, I guess they have to die, too.
I could just say “Chronicle did it better,” and call it a day, but it’s more than that. The idea of an evil Superman can be done well and you have even more potential taking it back to a story about an evil super boy. But out of basically nowhere, Brandon is evil one day. Any discussions of nature versus nurture are gone once the alien ship tells him to be a bastard. There’s no nature versus nurture conflict, either from his parents being shitty and then realizing that they’ve made this monster, or having Brandon feel at all conflicted about the evil he’s doing unto others. There’s even room for a somewhat humorous version of the film, what with Michael Rooker showing up during the credits ranting like Alex Jones about the appearance of more evil super-people. But that scene goes against the tone of the rest of the movie. This was just violent for the sake of violence with nothing new or interesting to say. He’s Goku, but without the brain damage to go against his programming. He’s just another evil, boring Superman.
But the main thing I kept thinking while watching this was, man, I’d rather be watching a mockumentary from 2000 about a fake boy band. I’ll explain why on Monday!
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