Sunday, June 2, 2019

Brightburn

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

A childless couple’s prayer is answered when something extra-terrestrial crashes into the woods near their home one night. There, Tori (Elizabeth Banks) finds a baby boy which she and husband Kyle (David Denman) name Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn). The child enjoys the love and support of his adoptive parents growing up in their humble home in Brightburn, Kansas. However, he is always bullied at school because of his interests and petite frame. Unaware of his origins and abilities, he gets annoyed one day with a lawn mower that won’t start and accidentally tosses it a hundred feet or so away from where he stands. When the motor finally revs up, he intentionally inserts his hand between the spinning blades and discovers that he is immune to pain and physical damage. Hit by puberty and a menacing voice on his head luring him into the barn where his spaceship lies hidden, he realizes that he is on this planet for a reason: to conquer it and be treated as a god.

Brightburn is basically a what-if Superman origin story theorizing what would happen if Clark Kent chose to be a villain instead of a hero. The storyline is the same, even the US state where the events unfold. While one can argue that this is still under the same genre, just a superhero flick gone wrong, it plays out more like a legit thriller that psychologically terrorizes you for the mere fact that the meta-human is not on the side of humanity this time around. He is not even an anti-hero here, but rather a full-on villain.

What you get to appreciate about the movie, though, are the themes around which the narrative revolves. For one, there is the nature versus nurture debate. After all, the subtitle reads: “Son of Evil”. We are not really introduced to Brandon’s biological parents, but the film just assumes that they ARE evil. Despite being raised by supportive and loving adoptive parents, he still ends up on the “evil” side, which summarily concludes the stand of whoever wrote the material, obviously leaning towards nature instead of nurture.

The special effects are a little wonky at times, especially those that involve flying and super speed. Because of the overall feel that screams more indie than big-budget mainstream, that kind of CGI feels a bit out of place and kind of ruins the somber and serious vibe. That’s where you draw the line between a sci-fi/fantasy and a horror flick. Brightburn straddles both at times but it is still within the realm of fantasy, which is somehow a pity because it has the potential to go horror/thriller all the way.

The movie is open-ended and begs for a sequel, and there are rumors that a shared universe is in the works. While it is interesting to anticipate what’s going to happen to a meta-human with powers left unchecked, the only option here is to introduce another character that will serve as an antagonist which also needs to be super-powered because otherwise, what’s the point? Perhaps they should leave the film as it is, a legit exploration of the concept of power. The superhero genre is already saturated as it is.

Acting-wise, it is Banks who gets to shine as she portrays the role of a mother who would do anything for the good of her child despite the circumstances. That’s unconditional love for you. But then again one might argue that she really doesn’t have any competition in the acting department to begin with. Dunn could have done better as the confused kid slowly giving in to the dark side but is instead pulled down by the familiar storyline as well as the CGI. Overall, it’s still a decent thriller worth the admission price, but there’s just that lingering feeling that they could have done so much more with the material.

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