Brightburn
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Credit: Sony Pictures

First Brightburn reviews accept our evil Superman overlord with open arms

Contributed by
May 22, 2019

If a human-looking baby crashes in the woods outside your house in rural Kansas, don't adopt it and try it raise it like a normal Earthling. In fact, you should run away... run far, far away. Better yet, you should report it to the Men in Black before it grows up and realizes that it's superior to the whole human race and goes on a murderous rampage to conquer this puny little world.

Anyhoo, the first reviews for the James Gunn-produced Brightburn (in theaters Friday) are now trickling onto the internet, and critics are widely captivated by the film's dark, Twilight Zone-esque take on the age-old Superman myth that's pervaded the world of comic books and comic book movies for more than eight decades.

Unlike other so-called "superhero horror" mashups out there, critics are saying that Brightburn cashes in all of its Kryptonian chips on an ultraviolent and genuinely scary no-nonsense origin story about how Clark Kent's humble beginnings could have gone horribly, horribly wrong by a cruel and ironic twist of fate. We've seen the film, too, and can tell you that the gory mayhem left by the central character is cringe-inducing and seat-squirming in the best way possible.

Directed by David Yarovesky (The Hive), Brightburn stars Jackson A. Dunn (a briefly young Scott Lang in Avengers: Endgame) as Brandon Breyer, the young boy from beyond the stars who turns irredeemably evil. Elizabeth Banks (Charlie's Angels) and David Denman (Power Rangers) play the boy's unwitting parents, Tori and Kyle.

The project's script was penned by Gunn's brother, Brian, and his cousin, Mark.

Here's what the critics are saying...

"While not exactly original, the premise is certainly effective enough. But Brightburn lacks the visual stylization or wit to elevate it from the realm of the crudely effective B-movie. The filmmakers don't seem to have a handle on their main character's powers, which include flying, superhuman strength and deadly laser beams shooting out of his eyes. When he's truly feeling evil, Brandon dons a mask, which is apparently meant to be scary but just looks silly." -Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter

"The premise isn’t bad, even if the evil-Superman origin story was done better in Chronicle. The execution, however, is lacking, particularly in  freshness, humor or style. If what can make an otherwise clock-punching popcorn entertainment memorable are its idiosyncrasies, this movie offers only some gratuitously dwelt-upon gore." -Dennis Harvey, Variety

"Brightburn doesn't take its satire to any kind of satisfying extreme – although a mid-credits stinger does include a larger joke at work – but as a superhero murder thriller, it is perfectly entertaining. Every once in a while, superheroes and horror will intersect (Hellboy, Blade, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, the other Hellboy). Brightburn is a worthy brother." -Witney Seibold, IGN

"More The Omen than it is SmallvilleBrightburn is the proper 'superhero horror' movie that recent attempts like Hellboy, Venom, and Glass failed to deliver. While those films masked efforts with comedy or absurdity (in the case of Venom, Tom Hardy eating live lobsters was both), Brightburn makes an actual slasher out of the Last Son of Krypton. It works, and it’s fun. While we’re numb to onscreen superpowers, the best moments in Brightburn come from its clever staging of Brandon, his victims, and the use of his powers." -Eric Francisco, Inverse

"Brightburn doesn’t do anything by halves. It’s an all-in superhero homage and an all-in, ultraviolent slasher movie about a monster with godlike powers. It’s bound to appeal to horror fans and comic book fans with an interest in the diabolical. The real test may be how people who don’t follow comics respond. So much of Brightburn is full of direct references to pre-existing tropes that it’s hard to imagine the movie functioning for an audience member who hasn’t done the required reading first." -William Bibbiani, Bloody Disgusting

"There’s a nihilistic streak to Brightburn that reminded me of Rob Zombie’s severely flawed, but somewhat interesting remake of Halloween. Much like Zombie’s take on Michael Myers, Brandon is a powerful monster that might have turned out differently if he had just been better understood. But that doesn’t happen. And people die – violently ... Brightburn is cold and unflinching, fully committed to unsettling its audience. It’s the type of movie that will make you thank your lucky stars that superheroes don’t really exist." -Chris Evangelista, /FILM

"By the horrific end of Brightburn, all that remains is the cleverness of its logline—and the growing suspicion that yes, Gunn and company are performing a feature-length dunk on Snyder (a brief during-credits sequence directly parodies a moment from Batman V. Superman). Like Brightburn’s concept, this ribbing makes more sense on paper than it does as an actual feature film. Man Of Steel, for all of its misguided action-climax hubris, saved some of its too-rare sensitivity for Clark Kent’s childhood, suggesting how the onset of superhuman powers might be at least as scary and confusing as it is thrilling. Brightburn just snickers like a bratty teenage gorehound." -Jesse Hassenger, The A.V. Club

"As Brandon’s rampage zooms forward, Brightburn moves away from its best ideas (like the people who seem to know there’s something off about him, his mother’s overwrought inability to come to terms with who he really is, or even the global implications of what Brandon believes he’s been sent to do), pushing into still more eye-jabbing, bone-crunching, fire-laced crimes and a series of increasingly cheap jump scares ... Soon enough, it’s just another scary movie with a nutso bad guy burning stuff down and looking freaky while doing it, and that’s something we’ve all seen before." -Kate Erbland, IndieWire

"If Gunn had directed Brightburn instead of Yarovesky, you get the sense a more seasoned touch would have made it all work a little better. Alas, Brightburn is a competent movie crafted out of incredible ideas. It’s gross, interesting, scary, and has fascinating mythology, all of which would be so much better if nearly all of it wasn’t delivered in such an obtuse way. Still, this is a story worth telling with characters we’d love to see again. Maybe next time, though, with a bit more care taken as to how the story is presented." -Germain Lussier, Gizmodo

"If I liked what Brightburn was about more than I liked how it was about it, then that’s partially the inevitable result of a big-scale story being told in a small-scale grindhouse horror sandbox. What we get, in terms of acting, suspense, violence and gore, is mostly compelling. But you’ll be left wanting more by default, and it comes to an end just as it’s really starting to live up to its gonzo potential. Brightburn is, sans expectations or hopes, a well-made and appropriately vicious skewing of a classic genre archetype." -Scott Mendelson, Forbes


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