For the last decade plus, the intersection of pop culture and film has been largely defined by superhero movies. Brightburn positioned itself to be the antithesis of the current run which was started by Christopher Nolan and dominated by the Marvel cinematic universe. But it has nothing to say. Not about superhero movies, not about morality, and certainly not about the infamous tale of Superman. Brightburn used Superman’s name in its marketing and featured scenes, shots, and plot points straight out of the D.C. hero’s story. But the connection between Brandon Breyer and Clark Kent is purely superficial. Where Superman is good, Brightburn is bad — and driven there by a really idiotic plot device. It goes no further than that. Instead of flipping the entire origin story on its head to forge emotional connections and create depth, Brightburn is content with simply giving a kid Superman’s powers and make him evil for the sake of being evil.
In short, it is the writing that failed this movie. The shallow, one-dimensional characters gave the cast nothing to work with and the audience nobody to root for. Jackson A. Dunn’s performance as Brandon Breyer comes across as monotonous and monolithic through no fault of his own. The story seems purposely designed to keep his character as shallow as possible all the way down to what drives him to be evil. Worse, the film relies on worn out horror tropes at almost every turn and fails to do anything overly unique with Brandon’s powers. Though it does lean into its R rating in terms of gore, the endless possibilities of death scenes at the hands of a superhero go largely untapped in favor of the more obvious types of kills.
Brightburn took a great concept and turned it into a run-of-the-mill horror film. While some may be satisfied by the darkness and gore, others will be left feeling unfulfilled by the expectations created when the studio decided to invoke the name of arguably the most famous superhero of all time.