in case it wasn’t obvious from the multitude of references I’ve made over recent years in all my posts, I’m a bit of a comic book nerd. Having started my collection in the early 80’s and never really stopped. I’m a child of what was referred to as the Bronze Age of comics, and was carried well into the “Dark Age” of comics before I stopped purchasing monthly editions. When I reached adulthood, I started purchasing collected works of certain titles, better known as graphic novels. Although not traditional comic books, graphic novels have allowed me to reminisce and read some of the storylines I lived through.
The Death of Superman storyline is a solid example. Green Lantern’s Emerald Dawn/Twilight and the Flash’s “Terminal Velocity” and “Dead Heat” are among my favourite storylines. Since the entire point of comic books is to read and escape to a reality where people can do amazing things, I’ve always been a fan of original and unique comic book series, as well as the visual media that’s all the rage these days. For example (and it may not be a popular opinion among my comic peers), I rather enjoyed the changes brought about by the New 52 take on the DC universe. Movies and television have only gotten progressively better, although you’ll never convince me that anyone is a better Superman than Christopher Reeve.
With some of that originality comes some ideas that step away from the norm, and they can often be quite interesting. This is where I landed on a movie called BrightBurn. Released in 2019, this is a movie classified as a “superhero horror film” and features a couple unable to bear a child who finds an infant in a crashed ship on their property. The couple raise the infant as their own, knowing that someday the ship that carried him may be revealed and they’ll have some serious questions to answer. As the boy gets older, he begins to exhibit certain abilities including invulnerability, heat vision and flight. Sound familiar? It should; that’s basically the origin story for Superman.
The difference in this instance however, is that BrightBurn (or Brandon, as he’s named in the movie) begins to respond to calls from the ship and becomes darker and more sinister as the movie plays out. After a brief and awkward chat with his father about the birds and the bees, he begins to stalk and watch one of the girls from his class, going as far as killing her mother when he’s told to stay away. When one of his aunts opposes him, he kills her husband and makes it look like an accident. His parents realized far too late that their adopted child is turning evil and get killed themselves. The movie doesn’t end well, with the child carrying on as he sees fit, wreaking chaos and killing at will.
Picture Superman growing up as the worst possible version of himself. Some graphic novels have taken liberties with what may have happened if Superman had landed anywhere other than a Kansas field to be found by the Kents. Elseworlds Comics has done a pretty good job of this. Superman: Red Son examined the possibility of Superman landing in Soviet era Russia. Superman: True Brit examines if he would have landed in England as opposed to Kansas. But none has quite examined this level of destructive evil in one possessing powers similar to Superman’s.
Picture a child with all of Superman’s powers, completely unhinged and willing to kill anyone who opposes him or questions his will. That nightmarish in the best of circumstances and this movie examines that exact premise. Between burning a hole through his father’s skull with his heat vision and dropping his mother from 30,000 feet before intentionally downing a full passenger plane, the thought of what this child will be capable of as he gets older and takes full stock of his powers is the stuff of nightmares, and they put it in a movie.
The film was widely received as a failure, with the potential for BrightBurn’s universe to be expanded upon before scoring quite low with critics and audiences alike. I don’t get it, because I thought it was creepy as hell and an interesting and refreshing take on the superhero genre that shows that power doesn’t always land at the feet of those who will do good with it. It’s a decent watch, if you’re looking for something with a bit of creepiness mixed with super powers. I thought it was good and I would certainly watch it again. ☯️