For all of its promise, “Brightburn” (2019) is the kind of movie that you can wait to rent from Redbox, rather than paying for a theater ticket. It isn’t a bad movie, exactly — I’d rate it a 7 out of 10, due to its admittedly great premise and some nice visuals. But you can wait for the DVD for two reasons:
- The film does little with its wicked-cool premise (what if a super-powered child like Clark Kent became a homicidal bad guy?). After walking the viewer through a horror-movie version of Superman’s origin story, the movie does almost nothing to expand on the idea.
- If you’ve already seen the trailer for “Brightburn,” then you’ve already seen most of the important parts. Seriously — this is another instance where a movie’s trailer reveals too much, and shows you virtually the entire story. I can’t see spending the ticket price to see what you might feel is mostly filler.
One of the more interesting things about “Brightburn” is its story concept, which is borrowed wholesale, of course, from DC Comics — apparently without any agreement with the company. I’m no expert on intellectual property rights, but … isn’t that kind of a big deal? Why is nobody commenting about it? This is essentially an unauthorized “Elseworlds” tale. (For those who don’t read comics, “Elseworlds” was an official DC imprint series where its characters were re-imagined in “what-if” scenarios, unconnected with the “real” DC universe’s continuity. What if Superman landed in the jungle as a baby and was raised by animals? What if he landed in Soviet Russia? What if he were found by Thomas and Martha Wayne, whose subsequent murder motivated his emergence as Batman?)
To make matters even more interesting, I’m willing to bet that some people will like “Brightburn” better than a few of the official Superman movies, especially 2016’s head-scratching “Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice.”
The filmmakers appear to making no effort to lampshade the intentional similarities, even in the movie’s marketing. (Even the boy villain’s “logo” in the story is like a twisted cubist remix of Superman’s logo.) I suppose if they claimed that “Brightburn” was a deliberate parody of the Superman mythos (and you could kinda view it that way), then it seems acceptable as satire.