Brightburn (dir. David Yarovesky, 2019) – A ship crash-lands on Earth, bringing with it a child who proves to be something far more sinister.
Brandishing the violence that Superman is capable of, the reimagined mythos however squanders the more interesting questions of the ‘why’ and ‘how’.
Kal-El, an all-powerful hero who can as easily save humanity as he can, destroy. Thank Krypton for Jor-El, who shares his faith in humanity with his son, just as his foster parents Jonathan and Martha Kent showed him every reason to use his powers for good.
His family pushed him upon the path of good, believing that Man deserves salvation and hope. But what if he had chosen different?
Away from Kent Farm in Brightburn is the very antithesis of the Superman we know. Finding out who he truly is, Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) sees himself as superior to mankind, and ravages the planet that he believes to be weak.
Nurture did not put him on the wrong path. His loving parents Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman) stood up for him, even at his worst. His classmate Erica (Becky Wahlstrom) showed admiration for his knowledge, when he was bullied for it.
Then, one night is all it took. A glowing red light from his spaceship beckoned him to “take the world”, and he begins to embrace his darker side. Nature turned him evil, and he spared no remorse, even for those who treated him with kindness.
For an outsider protecting a world that does no appreciate his deeds and instead fears him, it is easy for him to find several reasons to use his powers for rebellion. The mythos has time and again gotten close to these justifications, be it in the presence of red Kryptonite, or the mass hysteria of a Metropolis following collateral damage.
As Jonathan Kent said of his son in Man of Steel, “You’ll have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, good character or bad, he’s going to change the world.”
But we see none of this. Brandon Breyer never struggles with his turn towards villainy, provoking no thought into our society’s true crimes – of immorality, apathy, and injustice. A slasher is born, turning in a sadly reductive take on an evil Superman.
The concept that demands introspection, instead plays out as nothing more than a montage of the most graphic murders. The horror works surprisingly well. But therein lies glimpses of a more introspective and impactful story that unfortunately never was.