Brightburn: Not All Heroes Wear Capes

Some of them wear capes, super freaky face masks and aren’t actually heroes.

There are some interesting ideas bubbling beneath the surface of the James Gunn-produced Brightburn. The “what if Superman was a bad guy” premise is intriguing enough on its own. After all, contemporary Western society doesn’t deserve a super-being that is noble, just, and benevolent. We deserve one that mirrors our incivility, narcissism, and sense of superiority towards those who are different us.

A young Kansas couple struggling to conceive miraculously finds a baby boy. They tell him he’s adopted, and they also tell him that he’s different and special, that he will do “great things.” But after the boy starts to discover that he has superpowers, he also starts to display some disturbing behavior, especially toward his female classmates, mother, and school counselor. Whenever these women try to correct him, he becomes enraged, threatening, and—in some cases—violent. While watching, I couldn’t help but think of the unsettling Incel movement, a group of men who claim to be “involuntarily celibate” and think they are entitled to sex and affection from women while simultaneously hating women. I never thought a superhero(ish) film would reckon with ideas like this. But it definitely makes for a fascinating, if not terrifying, watch.

Even with these ideas in play, though, the movie never fully fleshes them out. Instead, it relies more on grotesque violence and gore to keep the audience engaged, resembling more of a horror flick than a superhero movie. At the very end, we see the real world start to reckon with the existence of this extremely powerful child. I think that movie would have been way more interesting than what we get with the majority of Birghtburn. But it’s still worth a watch if you’re a horror fan and a Superman fan.

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