Take the World

“Smart guys end up ruling the planet,” says a young girl to Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn), Brightburn’s central character who landed on Earth a decade ago an an infant. Brandon is intelligent. He will rule the planet. But, he doesn’t use smarts to conquer, just brawn and brute force. Superman goes rogue.

Under Brightburn is a risk-taking Superman movie where the old, idyllic, middle American upbringing fails the hero. It might force a confrontation with changing national truth; Man of Steel tried that a while back, but was stuck with the constraints of a known character. Brightburn’s unrestrained take then turns into… a creepy kid horror movie.

Brightburn isn’t a gargantuan epic. It’s a small, contained story about love and family. Brandon changes from an innocent kid who, when entering puberty, begins lashing out – but with eye lasers instead of, say, drugs. In there lies a satire for parents dealing with their own teenage apocalypse, with Brigthburn enacting an explicitly dark humor to make the point.

Soon, the breakdown in behavioral norms finds Brandon creepily staring through windows, spooking people inside. Then comes the gore, at multiple points turning grisly enough to earn a spot in the Saw series. Flickering lights and jump scares whittle credibility, turning Brightburn away from an interesting path and into a super-powered, unofficial Omen sequel.

Brightburn turns from an interesting path and into a super-powered, unofficial Omen sequel

The script takes coming-of-age tropes and uses them for their literalness – Brandon learns exactly who he is. Voices from a downed spaceship tell him why he’s on Earth. It makes the suggestion of bullying in the opening act less pertinent; Brandon acts out of designed purpose or interstellar destiny. Whichever it is, Brightburn doesn’t need to make that clear and doesn’t.

Midway through, Brandon’s adoptive father (13 Hours David Denman) notes that his own dad would’ve taken a belt to him for acting out. It’s a disciplinary quandary for an older generation, even mocking the softer touch in contemporary times as Brandon’s literally murdering people but doesn’t receive more than defensive posturing from his parents.

Consider this: Brightburn suggests a national indifference to violent kids. Although loving, the parents stay inactive disciplinarians, continue seeing their kid as perfect, and lash out at anyone who suggests differently. Family units breakdown because no on dares admit their fault. Prescient, just mired in tropes while trying to cover itself with a dollop of gore.


Digital clarity and supreme black levels merge to create stellar 2K-finished imagery. Dark as Brightburn likes to be, no signs of noise intrude. Impressive shadows undoubtedly help hide any possible offenses, but even then, Brightburn captures the potential of digital cinematography.

Contrast is stellar too. In the early going, daylight hits the farm with rich, bright highlights. This looks natural, suggesting a purity of the heartland and bettering Brightburn’s vision of idealism. Clashing with the finale against a pure pitch black nighttime sky makes that narrative contrast better still. And visually, that’s phenomenal HDR might.

Slightly softened imagery lacks the pinpoint definition or detail often seen on this format. It’s there – close-ups and a few aerials of the town excel – but everything draws on a muted response. Sharpness stays consistently at “good, not great” with enough texture/definition in tall grass/trees to deliver the setting. Likewise, saturation plays in this same arena, slightly dour with accurate flesh tones plus the occasional primary color punch.


Brandon keeps this Atmos track moving. With his super speed, he whips about the soundstage, panning between channels to make space in otherwise quiet film. He hears voices in his head, likewise swirling to envelop the soundstage. A brutal kill – Brightburn’s first – involves dialog stretched across the surrounds, a simulation of hearing voices inside the victim’s head. Listen for a loud, jarring door knock later, delivered directly behind the listener.

Height channels barely factor. The subwoofer isn’t doing much either, but does accentuate jump scares and in the end, emboldens destruction.


Director David Yarovesky joins cinematographer Michael Dallatorre and costume designer Autumn Steed for a commentary that, by the end, completely breaks down into a hysterically funny tip session for young filmmakers. If nothing else, skip to a little before the end credits roll and just wait. All that follows is a trio of EPK featurettes, none of them worth watching.

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Right on the line of becoming something great, Brightburn engages with horror movie tropes rather than the potential in its concept.

User Review
3 (1 vote)

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