Oh, come on. That title is click bait magic and you know it. But the best part about that click bait is that I actually believe it. I know, right? How could anyone like anything better than Endgame and the entire Marvel franchise? But I am decidedly on the record explaining how Marvel’s pantheon is destroying American cinematic experiences left and right. And I’m serious, Brightburn is legitimately better than all the Marvel movies put together. And, because I said I’d give you 10 reasons explaining exactly why, here you go:
- Brightburn is actually comprehensible.
- Brightburn is a universal story we can all relate to.
- Brightburn is a story, a story about family.
- Brightburn is full-on – so full-on, it might ruin a few of you.
- Brightburn is the antihero movie we all need right now.
- Brightburn is full tilt in all the best ways.
- Brightburn has Abraham and Isaac analogies.
- Brightburn has all kinds of blood pouring out of its veins.
- Brightburn is so dark as as to flip back to bright again.
- Brightburn is so much more realistic than any Marvel movie.
But ultimately, Brightburn is a movie about families contorted by modern problems in modern life, today. It’s the story of a particular family, the Breyer family, and their downward spiral. Specifically, it’s about a family that discovers a baby, delivered from outer space, and raised as their own child. And then it’s about their realistic consequences of these decisions played out throughout the rest of the movie.
See? Totally a whole ‘nother world of superheroes that Marvel would never, ever go to. A darker, way more realistic view of what would happen if a superhero truly did make its way into our world.
Brightburn Spoiler Filled Deep Dive
This is the story of Superman, re-envisioned. And like how Jonathan and Martha Kent found Superman, crash landed on Earth, so too did Tori and Kyle Breyer, when they found an alien craft containing their soon-to-be adopted son, Brandon. But where Ma and Pa Kent brought hope to the world, Tori (played by Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (played by David Denman) Breyer have brought pain, fear and desperation to the planet. Why? What is the difference between these two stories?
Some artists start their canvases with whites, yellows, and bright backgrounds. Rembrandt, on the other hand, began by priming his paintings with dark umbers, charcoals, and deep earth tones of the darkest night. Why? Because it reflected his perspective on the world around him. Similarly, Superman is all bright blues, deep reds, and brilliant lights. Brightburn on the other hands is the color of midnight and the darkness of blood glistening in the full moonlight. But this difference is nothing more than a perspective on how this world works. Do you believe that life is generally hopeful and absent pain? Or do you believe that life is cold, brutish, and short, to quote Hobbes. Speaking of Hobbes, these same dichotomies can also be seen in the philosophies as well. Are you a student of Nietzsche’s, Hobbes’ and Heidegger’s darker palettes? Or are you more a follower of Locke, Hegel, and the like? And I would go so far as to say these aren’t choices you make consciously, but rather they are perspectives you will naturally be drawn to.
Here is the question that defines this movie. Do you innately believe that if any one person was given infinite power, would they use it for good? Or would it immediately begin curdling and turning bad the moment it was realized. In essence, do you think that absolute power corrupts absolutely?
As with all superhero origin stories, Brandon starts out with no knowledge of his super powers. Brandon had no comprehension of his specialness or his origin from outside planet earth. But eventually, weird things began happening to him. He accidentally chucks the lawnmower a quarter mile away. He stops the blades with his hands. And he is beginning to hear voices coming from the barn. This is quickly followed by incidents at school. And like all “normal” outcasts, non-cookie-cutter kids at school, he quickly finds himself an outsider that is weird and misunderstood. And eventually, Brandon realizes that the voices from the barn are telling him to “TAKE THE WORLD” – RARRRRRR!
The Rise of Brightburn
When Caitlyn stands up for Brandon, she catches his eye. Which, apparently isn’t a good thing in this darker paletted world. Brandon, during a camping trip with his parents, makes his first visit to Caitlyn’s window at her home. But when Brandon breaks her hand in PE at school, Brandon is told to stay away from her. And when he visits Caitlyn in her bedroom again, and she tells him that her mother says she can’t talk to him…when Brandon says he will take care of that, we know nothing good will come of that. So when Brandon visits Caitlyn’s mother as she is closing shop at the local restaurant, the bloody result seems to be a natural outpouring of the downward spiral that seemed inevitable.
And when his aunt, the school’s guidance counselor, is charged with finding out if his harming of Caitlyn was intentional she implies that she will need to go to the police if he doesn’t show any remorse. “I know I’m something else, I know I’m superior.” But apparently, Brightburn isn’t too keen on the police finding out about it. So it isn’t too surprising when Brandon visits his aunt at home, and then visits his uncle, driving back from the local bar. And when we see Brightburn pick up his uncle’s car, only to drop his uncle, we really know that this hero story isn’t going the direction of other hero stories.
The interesting thing that happens next, is that Brandon works so hard to cover this atrocity up. He makes the murder of his uncle Noah look like a accident that happened when he swerved to miss a deer. Why? We saw this when his aunt mentioned the police, his reaction makes it clear that this can’t happen. Everyone cannot know that he exists. And realistically, this is Brandon’s/Brightburn’s #1 motivator, prevention of discovery.
And when his parents find out that Noah is dead, and that Brandon was with his aunt the previous night, threatening her, Kyle, Brandon’s dad, tells Tori, his mother, that what Brandon needs is some away time. Some camping time together. Kyle needs some time with Brandon on Mount Moriah. But Tori doesn’t put two and two together. She is still certain that Brandon couldn’t have done it, or even if he did, he could still be saved.
The Sacrifice of Brightburn
Even if you don’t know your Bible all that well, you know the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah. You know the one. God had come to Abram and Sarai, and said that they would be as fruitful as the sand on the seashore, even though they were old and barren. And after Sarai (now Sarah) had given birth to Isaac, Abram (now Abraham) took him to the top of Mount Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice to God. But at the last second, Abraham saw a ram caught in the thicket nearby, and he offered the ram instead.
Similarly, Kyle takes Brandon out into the woods, in order to go “hunting,” but really to sacrifice his son on behalf of the world. To save the world from his incredible, and devastating power. But when Brandon’s father shoots him in the back of the head with his rifle, nothing happens. And simultaneously, the lead cop on the investigation of both Caitlyn’s mother, and Brandon’s uncle, shows up to ask Tori if she recognizes this symbol he found at both crime scenes. Oh no, definitely not, she tells him. And then Brandon burns his fathers face clean off. Leaving his mother as the only one that can do anything now.
Tori knows that nothing can hurt Brandon, save for the ship he flew to earth in. And so she grabs a sharp piece of metal from the ship, in order to stab him with it. But at the last second Brandon stops her from stabbing him. And then up, up, up, the two of them go, into the sky. And then he drops her from a great height…and he just watches her plummet. And then there, in the sky, is a plane coming directly at him.
A Few Thoughts About Brightburn
I have gone this entire movie walkthrough without once mentioning the book Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. Do you know it? Part of a brilliant set of books that tell the story of super heroes (The Reckoners) that come to earth, and rule like horrible despots. It is the story of a band of rebels that attempt to fight back against the world’s powerful overlords. It’s a fantastic set of books that I couldn’t recommend highly enough. The idea of benevolent superheroes are so ingrained in the zeitgeist of our day that we don’t give it a second thought. Of course an all powerful being would be kind and merciful.
Oh really? That’s how power works? I mean, even the framers of the American experiment didn’t agree with that idea. Look at the Constitution. Three separate branches of government that are meant to check and balance one another because if any one branch is given too much power, they knew exactly what would happen.
I read a book a few years ago about a man that developed the ability to become invisible. It was something I picked up in an Airport bookstore, and I have no idea what it’s title is now, or who wrote it. Actually, just found it – thanks CY! – The Visible Man (2011) by Chuck Klosterman. The premise was that he was able to slather stuff on his skin, and use some technology to blend in with his background. And ultimately he used it to creep into random houses…to watch. To listen. And this is a truer account of power than anything we’ve ever seen in the comic books, or on our IMAX movie screens. And so too is Brightburn’s account of power going unchecked in the world today. (But let’s be honest, Marvel movies aren’t about normal mortals gaining power…they are stories of the Greek and Roman gods repurposed (sometimes literally) for today.) But Brightburn is a more realistic portrayal of power left unchecked, and it’s a murderous rampage that follows.
The Ending of Brightburn
When Brandon saw the plane coming his way, he knew this was his opportunity to cover up the crimes and murders he had committed so far. He crashed the plane onto his house, thereby erasing the two cops he killed, and his mother’s death. And just like that, Brandon was able to expunge any sort of real attempt to catch him at his handiwork. But why does he even care what us humans think? He takes the opposite approach to Superman, preferring the shadows, and the dark to operate, instead of the limelight. I literally don’t know the answer to this question.
Could it be because sin loves darkness? Pain and suffering’s mirror image to benevolence is bred in the shadows? That it can only grow in power as long as it isn’t caught? I really don’t know. You would think he would realize just how much power he has, and that he could flaunt it. But maybe he’s just new at this, and afraid that man will find a way, collectively, to chain him. Who knows?
And what about those end credit scenes? We watch as Brandon begins to expand his reign of terror across Kansas and the world. We also see a conspiracy theorist warning viewers about a “Half-man, half-sea creature” that comes from the ocean and a woman that is apparently strangling her victims with a rope. Kinda sounds like Aquaman, and Wonder Woman to me. No? And heck, why not? If Brightburn is our Superman, then why wouldn’t we have the rest of the evil Justice League making an appearance as well?
But I do know that I enjoyed the reality of this movie way more than any Marvel movie ever produced.
Edited by, CY
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