Brightburn

Critics Consensus

Although Brightburn doesn't fully deliver on the pitch-black promise of its setup, it's still enough to offer a diverting subversion of the superhero genre.

57%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 192

67%

Audience Score

Verified Ratings: 4,331
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Movie Info

What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister?

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Critic Reviews for Brightburn

All Critics (192) | Top Critics (25)

  • Because the film that this broadside of brass describes is ultimately, seriously, "Duuuumb!"

    Jun 21, 2019 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

    Kevin Maher

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • This film draws its strength in part from its willingness to be a more humbly scaled operation than the tentpoles weighted down by mandates for billion-dollar grosses.

    Jun 10, 2019 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • It leans heavily on jump scares and creeps before engaging with its premise, but when it does it's as chilling as Superman's freezing breath.

    Jun 7, 2019 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Helen O'Hara

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • A cure for superhero movie fatigue, this lean, gory horror film...has a coherent narrative and pays off with a bang.

    May 29, 2019 | Full Review…
  • If the filmmakers had a modicum of curiosity about the implications of their own idea, the movie might have had something interesting to say.

    May 27, 2019 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

    Oliver Jones

    Observer
    Top Critic
  • Brightburn can at least boast an interesting premise - not that it does anything with it.

    May 25, 2019 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Brightburn

  • Aug 08, 2019
    The idea behind this feature is fascinating, particularly given the prominence of the story in our times and culture: an alien being arrives on the planet as an infant and matures into "powers and abilities far beyond those of ordinary mortal men!" In the traditional story this being decides (a bit unrealistically if you want to look at it) to use his powers to famously help folks. The premise in this film is that the alien being more naturally chooses self-gratification, which could turn dangerous should anyone dare oppose him. Unfortunately, the filmmakers' vision of where things might go once past that interesting set-up is a tad intimate, ultimately limiting it's scope, it's vision, and keeps things creepy instead of allowing their initial proposal in its natural course. So we, the audience, get two movies for the price of one: the first is the little horror presented here, a squirm-er about a creep with unlimited power. The second is in our own heads, as we compare minute by minute, scene by scene, where the filmmakers should have at least considered, but purposefully did not. Disappointing finally.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Jun 09, 2019
    The concept is interesting and the world building delivers something a little different to the current hero films we are facing. We don't learn a lot here, and over the course of the film we will watch as the blessing grows into an unstoppable monster. The film is interesting and for fans of James Gunn are in for a delight towards the end of the film. This could grow into a new franchise and become something that is separate from the studio system. I hope this finds its feet at home and is a cult film. I'm glad I saw this at the cinema and I recommend it to all the horror buffs out there, or even the comic book community. 09/06/2019
    Brendan N Super Reviewer
  • Jun 02, 2019
    Many writers and artists have re-imagined the origin of Superman, the alien orphan sent to Earth and raised by the Kents into a thoughtful young man who empathizes with the humans he has come to identify with. What if that alien child, blessed with powerful abilities, didn't decide to become a hero and instead saw himself as superior? That's the premise of Brightburn which looks at the Man of Steel through the lens of The Omen. In the small Midwestern town of Brightburn, Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman) are a couple struggling to conceive, and then one fateful night a spaceship crash lands on their farm. Inside is a baby boy they decide to raise as their own son. Flash ahead a decade and Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) is a normal kid except he's never been sick, he cannot be cut, and he's starting to develop even more powers thanks to his spaceship seeming to activate something within him. It also fills his head with an alien message, one not too friendly for the people of Earth. Tori and Kyle must reconcile how far they're willing to go to protect their son and whether it's at the expense of the well-being of billions. Brightburn takes its thought exercise to the limit, fully developing its intriguing angle of what if the story of Superman went in a much darker, much bleaker direction. Instead of representing a hope for mankind, what if this alien son represented its demise? As I was sitting back and watching, each element felt well placed and well thought out, contributing to a feeling of satisfaction that the screenwriters have given considerable thought to telling not just a good story but the best version of their story. There's a very early science reference to wasps that tells you exactly where the film is going. I have some small quibbles when it comes to motivations, in particular the flip in Brandon, but these are minor and honestly could have been smoothed out with one or two added scenes. I appreciate that writers Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn (cousins to James) start things rather dark and see it through. This is the kind of movie you pray doesn't go soft and squishy by the end, where the irredeemable monster is reached through the power of love. This is not that movie. With an all-powerful monster, it would be a cop-out to somehow slide in a happy ending. The entire trajectory of the movie feels appropriate, quibbles over rushed motivation aside, and where we end up feels predictable but right. The biggest comparison I can make with the film isn't any of the Superman adventures but a little indie, 2011's powerful character study, We Need to Talk About Kevin. For those unaware, that movie followed a woman whose son grows up to be a school shooter who also kills her husband and daughter. The movie skips around in time and in doing so reveals through flashes of memory key incidents, flashpoints, where mom realizes something just isn't right with her dear old son. It's a test of a parent's love but it's also a test of how far a parent can ignore the warning signs that are amassing like a cancer. Like that film, Brightburn demonstrates the limits of parental love and rationalization. For much of the movie, Tori refuses to accept her son's darker impulses and the reality that is getting harder to ignore. Her son was a gift from the sky and that needs to mean something. Her love and parenting should be enough to keep her child on the path of good and responsibility, she reasons. This only delays the intervention that might have made a difference, but then again, when you're dealing with a kid with invulnerability and laser eyes, is there any intervention to turn things around? Are some too far gone? There are moments that even touch upon the creepy loner status of deranged spree killers. I genuinely felt sorry this one teenage girl ever showed a glint of kindness to Brandon because all it does is place her and her family into his obsessive fixation to control. I do believe that your enjoyment of Brightburn will partly rest on your prior knowledge of the Superman mythos and its clever, darker reworking. Considering this is an essential aspect of its premise and execution, I don't see this as a fault, though it will limit the audience that can simply plug into Brightburn and enjoy it as is. The film leans heavily on the iconography of Superman and purposely twists it as a perverse thought experiment. If you're indifferent or unfamiliar with Superman, it may play out as an efficient thriller with some solid acting and gross-out effects. However, if you're a canny follower of the Superman origins, then it becomes a meta commentary with even more to unpack. How does one exactly keep a god grounded in the ways of morality? I don't mean to make it seem like Brightburn is inaccessible to non-comic book fans. It's not, but part of the enjoyment for me was how it took something familiar and twisted anew. Those gore effects are impressively gross. This is a movie that doesn't shy away from the destructive power of its super demon seed. It builds in intensity and is actually pretty restrained, all things considered, but when it wants to pack a punch, the movie does. There was one extended bit of eye trauma that made me shield my face. How in the world can a person have that much glass shard lodged that far into one eyeball? It causes me shudders even thinking back on it. There's another scene where a person's jaw is dislodged like they were the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, a lanky part that stubbornly won't stay put. The person even holds their hand over their face, knowingly teasing the audience. As the film hurtles toward its final act, if you can think of a way that Superman could kill a vulnerable mortal, this movie covers it. Super speed splattering a person? Check. Laser eyes boring a hole through a skull? Check. There's even a scary sense of visual poetry to one kill that goes flying into the heavens in slow motion. The gore and grisly deaths are another aspect that reminds me how well developed the film is. The acting may be better than you're anticipating. The screenplay doesn't simply rely on the main characters being stand-ins for their Superman analogues. While they don't feel like three-dimensional characters, care has been put to give them more substance so that the drama of their choices can be compelling on its own. Banks (Lego Movie 2) and Denman (16 Hours) debate their increasingly fraught choices with clarity. He's convinced their son isn't right and poses a danger, and she doesn't disagree but refuses to abandon their son after all these years together. Early on, they feel like a real family, and that only makes the tragic events feel much more resonant as things spiral out of control. Banks and Denman are certainly not playing any scene for a knowing wink. To them and the rest of the production the events are very real and very scary. Dunn (Avengers: Endgame) is eerily spooky with his stares and glares, but there are also moments that remind you he is or was still a kid and experiencing the same desire to belong. This is not going to be a movie for everyone but if you're intrigued by the premise and/or have an affinity for Superman what if scenarios like Red Son, then it should be right up your alley. It's a clever and satisfying thriller that appeals to fans with darker desires. It's about as well executed as its premise could go, and I left my theater thoroughly satisfied with only some minor quibbles for motivation clarity and an extended epilogue (I don't know if Billie Eilish fits for the end credits but that's just a personal preference). Brightburn takes the Superman mythos and twists it into a creepy horror film, the origin of a super villain, and an apocalyptic death sentence for the rest of humanity. It's actually a lot of fun to watch even as it's disturbing you and leaving you wincing. Nate's Grade: B+
    Nate Z Super Reviewer
  • May 26, 2019
    I'll be honest right off the bat in saying that I'm not a fan of movies that feel like blatant rip-offs to classic stories, without doing anything new in the process. While I found myself admittedly sort of angry at the idea of taking the Superman origin story and turning it into a horror film, I was cautiously optimistic, due to the fact that there can be potential there in the right hands. When hearing that director James Gunn would be backing this film (known as Brightburn) as its producer, I was sold and needed to eventually give this one a watch. Happily, this movie embraces the fact that the story it's telling is stale and ends up being a really enjoyable movie. After numerous unsuccessful attempts at giving birth, a couple is given the choice to adopt when an alien spacecraft hits Earth, containing a young child. Naming him Brandon and having him grow up and have a normal life on a farm, what nobody knows, including Brandon himself, is that he possesses otherworldly abilities. From having powers to having two parents and living on a farm in Kansas, this movie does not shy away from the fact that it's simply telling the Superman story; However, what if the kid with the powers never once thought about using these powers for good? That is the pitch that I'm sure the filmmakers gave to the studio because there's no other way to sell this movie to a broad audience. Personally, this concept seemed odd in theory but ultimately worked for me as a finished film. With some solid jump scares and a well-shot environment, Brightburn is a very effective horror film, an even more effective thriller, and a slightly entertaining action film at times as well. This is a well-made movie from start to finish and I can't find many things to complain about, but the fact that it really is the Superman story beat for beat, it does feel a little unoriginal. Known for directing one other feature film, along with a few shorts and editing gigs, David Yarovesky is a name that I will look for in the future, especially in the horror genre. While I don't think his skills are necessarily limited to horror, he has proven here that he is a director to keep an eye on. I had honestly never heard of him prior to seeing this film, but he deserves quite a lot of recognition for this one. In the end, Brightburn probably won't be remembered by many as one of the great horror films, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that I had a blast watching it. From beginning to end, I was hooked on the familiar elements, remained engaged by the performances and horror elements, and ended up being overly satisfied with how certain things turned out in the end. Filled with gore while telling a classic Superman story, this movie won't be for those who don't like graphic content, but I can absolutely recommend it to those who do. Brightburn is a very, very solid movie.
    KJ P Super Reviewer

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