The origins of superheroes usually follow the same outline, a child grows up, gets powers, uses that powers for good. That’s the best-case scenario for us humans, an invaluable trump card against crime… but is it the way it would have played out? In 2019, a horror film examined what would happen if the blessed child doesn’t put humanity’s best interests before his own, and the nightmarish consequences for a small community, in the origin film, Brightburn.
When a young farm couple, trying to conceive, get interrupted during a meteor storm, months later they give birth to a boy, Brandon. As that boy grows up, he notices some unusual changes that are chalked up to puberty, but when his physical abilities start exceeding typical child development guidelines. As he battles hormones, different physiology, and mysterious voices coercing him to unleash his powers. It is up to his parents to try to guide him, but as his actions become more reprehensible, it becomes the question of what can they do?
If you read the plot description and noticed some similarities to Superman… you’d be right. The writers were inspired to create a dark twist on the famous hero’s origins. I always found it rather utopian to assume that a child that has unimaginable power would naturally put it towards protecting the earth, and the American way. But without the purely negative intentions of some villains, Brandon is a special case, a child growing up in a confusing world who still has the selfish tendencies most young children grow out of but with unstoppable power, It does raise some questions over whether Brandon means any of the harm he causes, or does he not know how to control himself, or if he can? His parents and teachers make valiant attempts to, but are their attempts doomed from the start? There are clues that the makers aren’t done yet, so these could be explored in future films.
While a dark origin story can only take the story so far, the film marries horror tropes to the story surprisingly well. This does lead to some uncomfortable scene, especially for the squeamish, as the film goes to the horrific realities of some famous superpowers being used against innocents. I also like the costume Brandon wears, a dehumanising mask made of burlap, with a rope that’s like a Hangman’s noose around his neck. It’s an effective costume, nonetheless.
Brightburn is an impressive development in the realm of superhero films. An entirely original character, and unique take on a well-known backstory. With a solid patchwork to turn this story into its own universe of possible superhero examinations in the future. Where I can see a similar situation to Glass and Unbreakable breaking out. As a standalone film, the tale of Brandon, and what happened in Blackburn county, is a fun horror flick, not necessarily one we need, but one we deserve.
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