Saturday, August 31, 2019

Movie Reviews: Brightburn

directed by David Yarovesky
Richard Donner directed Superman and The Omen. Brightburn is a low budget earnest mashup of those movies. It is produced by the people who created Guardians of the GalaxyBrightburn imagines the origin story of an evil Superman. Evil is a loaded word. There is no such thing as evil in nature.  

The cuckoo who tricks other birds into raising its hatchling, who immediately destroys the host birds' eggs, the wolf who hunts bison to eviscerate and eat them, or (in the film's example) the wasp who lays eggs in or around other insects who either raise wasp young or become food for wasp young are all acting according to their instinct. They can't be reasoned with or trained to do otherwise. Their behavior is pre-programmed. It's who they are and what they do.

Arguably humans can deliberately ignore, short-circuit or rewrite much of our instinctual programming. Some argue that humans don't even have instinctual programming. I don't know that I would go that far but humans certainly possess a level of free will that is apparently unparalleled for other beings. Brightburn depicts events when someone who looks human but isn't reaches a point where his pre-existing programming activates. The results for humans are similar to the caterpillar who discovers that its supposed stomach ache is actually a young wasp eating its way out of the caterpillar. Not good.

Kyle Brewer (David Denham) and his wife Tori (Elizabeth Banks) are a Kansas farm couple living in the small community of Brightburn. They have fertility issues. Despite vigorous physical intimacy they can't reproduce. 

One night while the couple is about to do the do, the house windows and foundations shake. There are strange lights in the sky. Running outside, Tori and Kyle track down what they think is a meteor. But it turns out to be a spaceship. Fortuitously for the barren couple there's a human baby inside. Well the baby can't be human can he? But he looks human and for Tori especially that's good enough. The couple loves their new son, whom they name Brandon.

Twelve years later Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) is a quiet reflective boy on the verge of puberty. He's starting to have crushes on some of his female classmates. Brandon tests in the upper 0.1% for intelligence. And if anything he's getting smarter. The problem is that some of his quiet seems to be coldness, something that his father Kyle intuits. Brandon is a little bit off. His classmates bully him. Brandon minds his own business and doodles in his notebook, which he never shares with anyone.

After his twelfth birthday Brandon experiences bad dreams. He speaks to himself in incomprehensible languages. His parents have locked up the damaged spaceship in the barn basement. The ship activates itself at night and sends subsonic messages which only Brandon can hear and understand. 

Brandon discovers that one of these messages translates to English as "Take the world." Brandon also discovers, when starting a lawnmower, that he has inhuman strength. Kyle is discomfited to see Brandon chew a stainless steel fork the way other people chew spaghetti. While Brandon finds his true purpose, heritage and abilities, Tori continues believing a mother's love conquers all. Kyle is worried, remembering that Brandon has never been sick, never bled, and never been bruised.

This movie might have been better with a longer running time. Perhaps it could have been a cable series. Brandon lacks any internal conflict. One minute Brandon is a normal, if quiet, human boy discovering girls. Then suddenly Brandon is someone who is weary of faking human reactions and emotions, or more ominously, forgetting how to do so. Brandon's behavior is often, by human standards at least, sociopathic. As he nonchalantly tells his parents in one offhandedly chilling scene "I get the feeling that you want me to express grief, or something?".

This is a gory movie. Avoid this film if you can't tolerate strong brutal violence. Banks and Denham do good work but don't get too much character development. Tori loves her son. Kyle is confused by him. There are a lot of jump scares. The end of the film features the song "Bad Guy" by Billie Eilish, which I thought fit the movie well.
blog comments powered by Disqus