At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Brightburn “2019”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Brightburn “2019”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Superhero Horror/Stars: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner, Abraham Clinkscales, Christian Finlayson, Jennifer Holland, Emmie Hunter, Becky Wahlstrom, Gregory Alan Williams, Anne Humphrey, Steve Agee, Stephen Blackehart, Michael Rooker, Mike Dunston, Terence Rosemore, Elizabeth Becka/Runtime: 90 minutes

You know when you really stop to think about it dear reader, the organisms that exist throughout the vast multiverse that presents itself to each and every one of us through iconic comic book company DC Comics should really count their blessings that, Red Son and Injustice aside, Superman turned out to be the individual that he is. I mean not only did his Earth-bound surrogate parents Ma and Pa (or Jonathan and Mary for you comic book purists out there) Kent instill in him a sense of honor as well as an ironclad code of morals, but also Jor-El to say nothing of the rest of Krypton didn’t right from the get-go decide to insert in him any kind of superiority complex or even homicidal drive to just annihilate the rest of the universe before he was hurtled through space (though to be fair the planet was on the verge of being all but annihilated so maybe that impending destruction had something to do with it). Jokes aside, you can see that as a result of these decisions and choices made that the planet Earth, to say nothing of the rest of the known universe, was gifted one of its most stalwart protectors when there is no denying that it could have with as much ease gotten one of its most diabolical and unstoppable villains. With that in mind though, the question does remain of “well what would have happened had our planet gotten a reversed in terms of behavior to say nothing of morals Superman?” It is this question that the film I am reviewing today, 2019’s Brightburn, aims to try and answer. Indeed here is a slice of cinema that manages to take the core components of Superman’s origins and then proceeds to throw that wonderfully terrifying wrench into the proceedings. Yet despite being a fairly simplistic concept, it is also a concept that does necessitate its cinematic execution to be potent, but thankfully that is something that this slice of cinema is able to pull off. No this is most assuredly by no means a slice of cinema that is larger than life nor is it one that comes equipped with some truly thought-provoking analysis and yes it does feel like by and large the entire third act of this slice of cinema seems to have completely cut. However, it should still be said that even with those flaws in mind there is no denying that this narrative is still fairly well-done, the cast does fairly good work, and there are quite a few moments that will leave you stunned and chilled in the best way possible.  Suffice it to say that Brightburn might not be a perfect slice of cinema, but at the very least it is one that is fairly entertaining for what it is aiming to be.

The plot is as follows: So stop me when this sounds familiar: Brightburn gets underway as we see a loving couple who are sadly unable to conceive a child of their own by the name of Jonathan and Martha Kent ehhh Kyle and Tori Breyer as they find their prayers unexpectedly answered late one night when they stumble upon a humanoid extraterrestrial infant who has just crashed in his ship outside their farm in (surprise surprise) Kansas. However, rather than report the incident to the authorities, we see (again surprise) they decide to take the boy in and raise him as their own son. From there, we see that the narrative jumps ahead about a solid decade where we see that the child Clark ehhh Brandon has become a loving and fairly brilliant young man yet also a little bit of a social pariah in the community of Smallville ehhh Brightburn. It isn’t long though before he discovers that he also has superhuman abilities. Something he incidentally discovers when he gets annoyed with the lawnmower and proceeds to fling it quite a distant. Yet we soon see that, unlike a certain superhero who possesses a fairly similar origin saga, Brandon’s journey is about to take a fairly bleak turn. One that is egged on by an ominous internal voice that comes from the ship that he arrived in and which begins pushing the young lad to utilize his gifts for more sinister means. Suffice it to say as our young super-powered being starts to comprehend just who he truly is to say nothing of all the things he can do, we also see his behaviors and mannerisms start to go dark as well to the point that he begins lashing out at everyone including his parents. Thus it isn’t long before weird things and a string of visceral deaths start occurring in the area that start to spiral so far out of control that our parental duo begin to piece together that it might just be their little boy who is responsible for all the chaos and destruction going on. Suffice it to say can his parents find the strength to do what they (reluctantly) know they need to do or are we seeing the rise of a new and immensely terrifying super-villain that won’t let anyone or anything get in his way? That I will leave for you to discover dear reader…

Now yes this slice of cinema does have its fair share of flaws, but there is one component where I feel that this slice of cinema does an absolutely terrific job. That of course would be in how it operates as a riveting look at how extraordinarily horrifying it could be if you gave Superman’s collection of powers to a version of him that was younger and, even worse, a completely unrepentant homicidal maniac that has no qualms about taking out anyone who gets in his way and then proceeded to set him loose in a horror film. Indeed it might come as a surprise dear reader, but apparently a cloak-rockin’ individual just floating tranquilly in the nighttime sky can be more than just a rousing and heroic sight. Rather, it can also be a downright terrifying and completely nightmare-inducing image as well (though the fact that the character in question also happens to have piercing ruby-red eyes might also play a part in that). Going off of that, we also see that the film does a great job at showing how a character equipped with super speed like the aforementioned Supes or even The Flash could easily work in a horror film since this slice of cinema utilizes this power to potent effect in a series of jump scare moments that will leave you checking to make sure that your heart is still in your body. At the same time, I should also point out that there are some moments in this that are definitely quite visceral in nature that, without going into spoilers, will definitely leave your jaw agape and your nails hooked into the edge of your seat as you see them play out before your very eyes. Finally, and above all it should also be noted that this film’s helmer does a terrific job at, right from frame one, giving this slice of cinema a fairly consistent vibe of ominous that helps to build not only tension and suspense, but the rising awareness on the part of the characters that this young man is by no means a benevolent entity be it in moments where he is simply interacting with his parents at the kitchen table or in a moment where he is just shooting daggers (not literally thankfully) at the chicken coop that later comes back to play in a manner that will have you think twice about eating fried chicken ever again. Of course, the thing that makes everything I just mentioned even more incredible is the fact that this slice of cinema was made for only 6 million dollars. At the same time though, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since a higher budget doesn’t always equal positive results in the land of movie magic. With all of that said though, there is one big flaw that this film has and it’s one that takes this film down from being close to great to just being merely good. That being that this slice of cinema seemingly does not have a third act or if it does it’s one that feels severely rushed. A choice that doesn’t really take away per se from the wonderful escalation of events that we have seen unfold in the first two acts, but does weaken them since it really does give off the impression that the team behind the camera either were on the verge of running out of ideas, money, or both, and just had to cobble together something in a hurry in order to give this film some kind of “ending”.

Of course, the other big area of note here are the performances by the cast that has been assembled here and honestly they aren’t too bad. Indeed in many respects, this slice of cinema’s cast is a wonderful example of bringing together a group of professionals who know that the film they are making won’t give them a hefty payday, but that’s ok because they are more interested in the opportunity to bring such a distinct project to life and that does aid the quality of this slice of cinema fairly well. This starts with, as our surrogate Ma and Pa Kent-types, Elizabeth Banks as well as David Denman (Roy from the American Office for those of you in the know) respectively and suffice it to say both of them manage to give truly wonderful performances. Indeed not only do these two feel like a genuine couple, but they both do a great job at giving us two people are who desperately trying to see the good in their adopted child despite all the twisted and sinister stuff that he is starting to (at least in their eyes) merely be accused of only to eventually start to heartbreakingly realize that maybe just maybe their child is a monster that will kill everyone in his path unless they stop him first. Suffice it to say that the film does a wonderfully terrifying job of placing the two smackdab in the middle of one of the most nightmarish scenarios possible for a parent and the two handle what is being asked of them character-wise fairly well. Of course, the rest of the cast does do fairly good work in their respective roles even if their parts might fall more often than not on relying on fairly predictable archetypes in order to fuel their arcs in this story along. With that said however, there is one other performer who I most assuredly feel is worth mentioning in this section. That would be Jackson A. Dunn in the role of Clark Kent ehhhh Brandon Breyer. I say that because this young man manages to do a wonderful job of portraying a character who, for all intents and purposes, is meant to be a child who could easily be the offspring of Superman due to his superpower collection as much as Michael Myers from Halloween due to their seemingly shared invulnerability and homicidal tendencies. I mean not only does Dunn do terrific at just being as seemingly detached and emotionless as possible when he is doing some truly horrific things, but even in the moments where he is just acting like a seemingly ordinary kid he has a blank stare on him that will undoubtedly send a shiver down your spine every single time you see it in the best way possible. Suffice it to say that the movie might not give the time to the internal cage match between good and evil that is raging inside this young boy, but there is still no denying how well-done Dunn’s performance is.

All in all is 2019’s Brightburn a perfect slice of either superheroic, horrific, or both cinema? Nope. Not even close. At the same time though, is it a slice of cinema that is completely void of any merit and/or not worth recommending in even the slightest? Honestly I wouldn’t say that either. Indeed it might be flawed, but the work done behind the camera (especially in regards to the effects department) is more than capable and the work being done in front of the camera by its cast of performers is also not that bad in its own right as well. With all of that in mind therefore, if you are on someone who is on the hunt for a visceral, hard-R, and actually fairly novel take on the whole “super powered individual origin saga” that you can sit back and enjoy for a couple of hours give or take then I would definitely give Brightburn a try. Just make sure that when you do you keep one eye up in the sky because you never know who or what could be up there watching and waiting. Make of that what thou will dear reader. On a scale of 1-5 I give Brightburn a solid 3 out of 5.