Monday, June 3, 2019

Review: "Brightburn" might just be the surprise of the season

Brightburn Review
Even if you've never picked up one of his comics. Even if you've never liked any of his recent movies. Superman is the most iconic and well known superhero in the world. Simply because he's the oldest superhero in the world. I mean he's called SUPERman for a reason. He's the guy that can do anything, but understands the meaning and responsibility of unlimited power. And he's always used it wisely. Even though he doesn't rank very high on the list of my favorite superheroes, I understand we wouldn't have a genre without him, and there wouldn't be these people called superheroes, which have been a big part of my life.

Superhero movies are big business right now. And as I've said before, as the genre is allowed to get weirder, people are going to try to start doing their own things with the genre. I think we've finally reached a pinnacle moment in the sub-genre of superhero movies, and how long the this money machine lasts will be up to Hollywood itself. It took a few decades for these characters to slowly get introduced to an audience, build up how each character is different and alike, set up their worlds, risk everything by making them interact. Now, characters were once C and D list heroes are now A list heroes, because the sub-genre has been so popular. A movie like "Avengers: Endgame" and "Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse" can make mad gobs of money, even though those are the two "silliest" superhero movies ever made story-wise. Finally, a genre that was looked at with disdain is now the gold standard in filmmaking. Sure, maybe Steven Spielberg is right, maybe this sub-genre can't last. But as long as artists continue to push themselves, that shelf life lasts longer.

We've received an onslaught of Marvel movies by this point, and it looks like we are about to get the same thing with DC. People are really beginning to get a general understanding between the differences of the two major comic book companies. They also understand outsiders like The Tick and Hellboy. It looks like its time for comic book movies to go"post-modern." When films like "Mystery Men" and "Chronicle" and "Hancock" tried that previously, they didn't work because the norms of the genre weren't established yet. As much as I think "Mystery Men" is one of the best superhero movies ever, it bombed because people didn't really get what they were watching. Now that we've had many movies in the superhero genre and we've seen how these worlds work, its about time we got some original voices thrown into mix, and see who could really subvert the franchise. It seems like the next step. But when M. Night Shyamalan tried it with "Glass," it still didn't hit the target it so desperately wanted to hit.

I am pretty sure "Brightburn" was the movie "Glass" wanted to be. 

You can watch a trailer for "Brightburn" and think. "Really, so basically he's Superman, but bad?" Like it or not, that's not an original idea, there have been plenty of stories published by DC where Superman went off his rocker. "Superman: Red Son" is a great what if story about what the world would have been like if Superman's pod landed in Communist Russia instead of America, and its a cool concept and an equally cool book. So just taking Superman's origin and changing him into a bad guy wasn't enough to grab my attention. Perhaps the low expectations is what made this such a great experience for me, because I can't believe how much I was entertained by this.

If you know Superman well, then this quick plot synopsis shall sound familiar. A family (Elizabeth Banks, David Denman) are ready for parenthood. Something crashes in their backyard. Soon after, they are raising a baby. The whole family lives on a farm. The boy, who will eventually be played by Jackson A. Dunn, begins to reveal he has superpowers. He is an introvert who is often bullied. It all sounds so familiar doesn't it? Except this story doesn't have a happy ending. One night, the boy named Brandon finds a mysterious spaceship buried in his backyard. Instead of getting a nice hologram message from his alien dad, Brandon is told to take the world, and take the world he does.

Yeah, its a pretty shameless "evil remake" of Superman. If that's really how you want to look at it. But how I saw it was a pretty damn good subversion of the superhero genre. A clever take on this type of movie told in a new light. You can get all caught up on how unoriginal it all is or can take it for what it is. The acting is pretty solid across the board, and the special effects is used sparingly. It just rugid enough to feel real world. Plus the blending of horror elements with the superhero genre doesn't sound like it should work, but somehow does. Because let's face it, if a Superman-like being introduced themselves tomorrow, how frightened would you be? Be honest.

The transition from horror to superhero movie is a little sloppy here and there, but there is a grand feeling of confidence that keeps you entertained. This movie is positively leveled with ambition and that is something that always counts with me. The story is simple and tight, its able to keep you focused and it all mostly makes sense. Unlike "Glass" where it felt like not everything really added up at the end. This one may shock people because its not something that will really make you feel good, they really aimed high when trying to blend horror with the superhero genre and its a job well done overall.

The ending of course points to a larger world. It looks like there is an evil Aquaman and an evil Wonder Woman running around somewhere. Also, if you really know your indie movies, there is a cameo that made me smile big during the mid-credits. If director David Yarovesky and Producer James Gunn plan on making their own "Warped DC Universe" on screen. I am definitely all in. 

Really what got me, and what usually gets me were the characters. Sure, they make some horror movie errors here and there, but the movie remains entertaining throughout. Jackson A. Dunn is quite the discovery here,  and I'll be curious to see him in other things in the future. It was only a year ago for me when I first became a dad, and while its been the greatest gift I've ever been given. Being a parent is hard work. You can read all the books and watch all the DVDs on parenting you can, but truly nothing prepares you for it. It can be a very anxiety-ridden experience, because you are responsible for keeping a small life form alive, healthy, and knowledgeable. Just one can be a juggling act that you do all day, everyday. As a parent, you want to get your kids on the right footing, make sure they grow up to be good people. I just don't know how I'd feel if I woke up on morning and found out my child had done something earth-shatteringly bad. Its probably a mini-nightmare for most parents. How do you make sure your kids make the right decisions when your not there. Can you parent too little? Can you parent too much? If "Brightburn" does anything, it subtlety pushes the nerves of parents and shows just how challenging it can be at times.

I always love it when I get an unexpected time at the movies. This is not at all what I imagined I'd see tonight nor is this the review I figured I'd write tonight. In the age when the superhero genre is reaching a certain saturation point, I hope we see more of this kind of movie being made and I hope this isn't the last time I get to visit Brightburn, Kansas.

FINAL GRADE: A-

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