There was a lot of anticipation for the 2019 James Gunn produced Brightburn. We’d seen an absolute onslaught of superhero films over the previous two decades, and this one seemed to be giving us a fresh take.
As Amanda Waller remarked in Suicide Squad, “We got lucky with Superman. He shared our values. What if the next one doesn’t?” Brightburn sought to answer this question. And while many were eager to see it, the movie itself proved to be divisive and for many, didn’t quite hit the mark. Let’s try and find out why!
Too Derivative to Stand Out
In my original review of the movie, I used the term “Horror Parody” to refer to the fact that Brightburn was essentially a replica of Superman, but doing so in the horror genre rather than comedy.
It opened up the possibility to other movies getting a horror treatment (many romantic movies could easily become stalker thrillers). However, it left the movie itself without much originality. We all know the Superman story like the back of our hands, and while this took a fresh take on it, everyone kind of knew the beats and steps of the story.
Spacecraft lands on a farm, parents find a baby inside, raise him as their own, years later the child discovers he has powers. No matter what the movie did, audiences probably weren’t going to be impressed with yet another telling of the Superman story.
Too Dark for Superhero Fans
Upon release, one thing that surprised many fans was just how brutal and gory the kills in it were. When Brandon decides to kill someone, be it his crushes mom, his uncle, or even his parents, he does so in the most destructive and violent way possible. It does seem fitting for a young boy with anger issues that never developed empathy.
However, for the casual comic book movie fan who wasn’t desensitized by years of Saw and Hostel, it came off as too much. Even diehard horror fans were surprised by just how gruesome they were, and that it was unexpected coming from a kid. Speaking as a horror fan, it’s nothing really unexpected from the genre, but given the “superhero” nature, a lot of non-horror fans went to see this as well.
Too Jarring for Horror Fans
There’s an age old debate between horror fans whether the genre should be serious and disturbing (see anything form A24) or fun and lighthearted (see anything from Sam Raimi). There’s certainly room for both, but one thing that most will agree on is that movie needs to choose one and commit to it.
When a movie tries to do both, it results in an inconsistent tone that can be off-putting to some. While horror fans were definitely accustomed to these types of bloody kills, they occur in a movie that also has a lot of jokes and lighthearted humor.
The same criticism was lobbed at The Belko Experiment (which James Gunn wrote). In both cases some scenes were played for laughs, and others to disturb. And horror fans tend to reject things that try to do both.
Brightburn is by no means a bad film. On a personal level, I enjoyed it quite a bit. However it’s easy to see why it didn’t get such a warm reception by either fan base, and why we (sadly) probably won’t get a sequel.
What did you think of Brightburn? Let us know in the comments!
Brightburn is currently streaming on STARZ