Perhaps I'm in the minority of folks who were somewhat taken in by the admittedly novel premise of "Brightburn," but try as I may to not take that lack of admiration out on the movie, it's impossible for me to not hold it to task for that.
Ignoring the plethora of comic books spanning decades that have twisted the "Superman" concept into dark reflections of itself to varying degrees of success, DC's own infatuation with scrubbing out the more outlandish Silver Age camp and the morally confused revisionist take on the character, I just can't wrap my head around the fascination of concept with an answer as simple as, if Superman were bad then bad things would happen.
Our culture has fought long and hard to make persist the narrative that absolute power corrupts absolutely for so long that, at this point, it would actually be more refreshing to see the narrative of a genuinely good person acting out of authentic altruism with super powers. With that in mind, any of the potentially horrific ramifications of an invincible monster on the planet seem to fall rather flat, but they would have at least been something to give "Brightburn" some meat atop its hollow skeletal structure.
The hard left turn promised by the unfolding of a seemingly traditional "Superman" narrative gets a bit of a cop out, as young preteen Brandon Breyer receives something of a telepathic calling to the vessel he arrived on Earth in as an infant before beginning to display burgeoning sociopathic tendencies. Because, however, it is never made explicitly clear as to whether or not this behavior has been programmed into him or is the tragic end result of who he grows up to be, a lot of the emotional beats attempting to highlight some sort of tragedy or character study fall flat, drawing attention to dialogue that ranges from outright bad at worst to pedestrian at best that is beneath the admittedly talented cast.
Not content to simply waste those opportunities, the film occasionally dabbles in areas of social commentary with regard to small town rural American white privilege, i.e. Brandon's family connections that can bail him out of trouble, his mother's desire to overlook his lethally dangerous faults in favor of seeing her precious little angel, the long term ramifications of not properly grappling with children's mental health issues simply because hormones make them difficult to manage, etc.
Similarly to the superhero deconstruction issues, though, these topics more or less remain window dressing to a film that is more concerned with positioning its pint-sized villainous figure as a modern slasher.
Credit where credit is due, "Brightburn" definitely works on the level of horror fueled spectacle that it was clearly aiming for and while the grander ideas it seems to carry may have merely been a result of an effective but dishonest marketing campaign, the spectacle and atmosphere don't hide the thinness of a story that would be a villain's brief origin flashback at best in a much better superhero movie, padded out to a mercifully brief hour and a half runtime.
3 out of 5
Graduating from Texas A&M University—Commerce with a bachelor's degree in News and Editorial Journalism, Jordan Wright has lived most of his adult life professionally critiquing films, from major blockbusters to indie dramas, and has no intentions of stopping.