A kindly couple in a rural setting, unable to bear children, take in an alien child hurtled into their lives from space. Sounds familiar? Of course it does. Because we all know what happens next. The child grows up to be a righteous paladin of the world and is christened Superman for his extraordinary strength. However, Director David Yarovesky takes the oft repeated premise and does a complete U-turn as he imagines the alien kid as someone who is essentially evil. Yarovesky genuinely tries to reference numerous famous scenes from the Superman movies and creates a parallel universe of sorts where instead of saving the day, the ‘bizarro’ Superman is the perpetrator of the misfortune. Like the famous aeroplane saving scene from any of the Superman instalments, where the caped one swoops in last minute to save the day. Or the famous scene where Superman saves a car by catching it and saving the occupants. In Brightburn, well, the occupants do not have such a lucky shave. In fact, the character played by Matt Jones meets a pretty gory end.
However, I will not be doing any justice to the movie if I keep referencing Superman. Brighburn is a study in family dynamics and the moral dilemma when someone who is your own turns out to be a devil reincarnation. In the world we live in, with a lot of mayhem around, it begs the question that does blood relation countermand evil action? Elizabeth Banks as Tory and David Denman as Kyle start an idyllic life with their ‘adopted’ child, without any clue about his origins or motive. As an audience, you feel their pain and almost attest their denial of their son’s actions. As Brandon (the brilliant and terrifying Jackson A. Dunn) grows to be a teenager who is aloof and mysterious, the parents grow increasingly worried about his change in behaviour, at the same time, refusing to believe that something sinister has gotten into their child’s mind.
The movie works because it sets the premise beautifully for a tragic ending. We see Brandon spiral down into a pit of vengeance and evil intentions, while his loving parents try their best to deny and defy those who raise suspicion about their child. Although the third act is slightly flat and the ending almost inevitable, we appreciate a story where we see the other side of an age-old anecdote. The movie uses hand held camera beautifully to capture restlessness and a constant sense of fear. The tropes used to convey fear and something sinister are the usual ones, but the director sets things up nicely to allude to the audience’s expectation of a happy ending, only to quash any such hope mercilessly in a bloody final climax.
Brightburn may just be the first piece of the new anti-hero , misfit universe. Without any comic book studio backing, Brightburn can actually benefit from having interesting new characters who are poles apart on the moral compass from the more celebrated superheroes we have come to love, yet, may give us an entirely engaging series of evil superheroes. Or may be it is just a one off, small budget movie. Either case, Brightburn definitely got our interest!