Whether you like Zack Snyder's controversial, grittier take on Superman in "Man Of Steel" or felt that it was a complete butchery of the character, I assure you that whatever was done in this film makes what Snyder did look great. "Brightburn" tells a 'what if' tale about an evil Superman, or in this case, Superboy. It is a horror take on the classic mythos with Superman now being a 12-year-old boy who turns out to be evil.
On paper, that sounds amazing. A deconstruction of the iconic character that has actually worked surprisingly well in it's original medium- the comics. Furthermore, it is produced by James Gunn and written by his brothers, Brian and Mark. With Gunn being so closely attached to this project, how could it possibly fail? After all this is James Gunn we are talking about, the man who is responsible for bringing the d-list "Guardians of the Galaxy" to the big screen. Gunn's 2010 film, "Super" was also a deconstruction of the superhero genre by itself and "Slither" was an excellent homage to old school horror films. Looking back at his past filmography, "Brightburn" seems to be a sure fire culmination of them all. Unfortunately, this is not directed nor written by him.
As mentioned, the script was written by his brothers, who previously worked on "Journey 2", the one with The Rock. Director David Yarovesky who has done nothing really notable, other than a music video for "Guardians of the Galaxy 2" and some horror feature no one's heard before, helms this. Boy, does it really show. For a film that aims to subvert the superhero genre or the mythos, it does nothing new. Instead, the end product is bleak and dire that even out matches the dark DC Snyder-verse, in that area. However, it is also bland and dull.
For some reason, this film has no comedic elements or even fun at all. Although I appreciate it being in full horror territory, the lack of James Gunn's signature tongue in cheek tone is infuriating. It's as if "Brightburn" tries so hard to make fun of and criticize "Man of Steel" but becomes the worse version of it. There are so many elements that Yarovesky and his writers directly lift from "Man of Steel". Heck, even the score sounds similar to Hans Zimmer's epic. However, all these elements felt watered down and it is not way as glorious as it's predecessor.
"Brightburn" feels unusually cheap and I don't mean as a low budget film only. The script is weak and the narrative feels incomplete. Scenes felt like they have not enough shot coverage or footage available. The entire film feels too rushed as a whole. I can't believe that I missed the slower pace of "Man of Steel". There are also weird character decisions that don't make any sense and only seemed to be made for moving on the plot.
Despite the acting being mostly competent, I could not care less about the characters. There is zero character development whatsoever, especially for the evil kid and weirdly enough, there is also no mythology fleshed out at all which leaves a ton of unanswered questions by the end. Additionally, "Brightburn" suffers from most of the same pitfalls of being formulaic and generic as any other modern day horror film. There is an over-reliance on jump scares and cut away from as much from the gore as possible.
Overall, it is really maddening how the film never reached a bit of it's creative potential. What we have got is a bare minimum of a movie that is so subpar to even call it a deconstruction of anything. It should have been over the top, satirical or at least scary. It's funny as an over the top character, played by one of James Gunn's commonly worked with actors, showed up when the credits rolled, leaving you to realise this should have been the tone of the film.
For a better deconstruction of the genre, audiences might want to watch Josh Trank's "Chronicle" instead. Despite my hatred of found footage, I appreciate what Trank was trying to do and it is a proper way to look at the genre differently. Or audiences can just go and watch "Man of Steel" again as flawed as it maybe; Snyder did fleshed out a unique perspective of the character. This on the other hand, is I quote from another reviewer, a cheap one-night-stand that takes all your money and leaves you unsatisfied.