While I normally attempt to avoid spoilers in discussions of movies and books, the nature of the story of this movie means the discussion necessarily involves some spoilers.
Brightburn offers an unusual take on the superhero story. Although in some ways there’s elements here that remind one of M Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable trilogy, it is the Superman origin story that is important to be familiar with here.
Brightburn parallels the Superman story. Kyle and Tori Breyer replace Jonathan “Pa” and Martha “Ma” Kent. Brightburn, Kansas replaces Smallville, Kansas. Brandon Breyer replaces Clark Kent.
From the crash of Brandon’s spaceship on Earth through puberty, the story parallels that of Kal-El’s childhood from the Superman story. However, once the child hits puberty, the story takes a turn to address the nature versus nurture debate in terms of superhero stories.
Around the time of his 12th birthday, the young Brandon starts to develop abilities that are beyond the norm. Instead of a green glow and a message to protect the Earth, Brandon’s spaceship glows red and offers strange whispers in the night, hinting at a more ominous source than Jor-El and Krypton.
When he first comes in contact with his spaceship, Brandon, who up to this point in the story has never been cut or injured, is cut by a piece of the ship, which is also witnessed by his mother Tori, again paralleling that the one weakness Brandon has is similar to Clark’s kryptonite.
The origins of Brandon are left unrevealed in this story. However, the dark whispers to “Take the world”, the red glow of the spaceship, Brandon’s own acknowledgment of being “special” and “superior”, and the design of the mask Brandon takes to wearing as he goes about his actions hints at something Cthulhuish and Lovecraftian in origin.
The rest of the story is a play on the 12 year old Brandon discovering and using his powers to protect his powers and identity. Most of those who know Brandon’s secret, weakness, and identity are removed by the end. The ending ambiguously offers the possibility of sequels and more stories to follow. As the closing credits run, they are interspersed with clips showing that Brandon’s actions stretch beyond the borders of the town of Brightburn and his alter ego is called “Brightburn” in the media.
Since this is billed as a horror movie, there are elements of horror gore in a few of the scenes, but otherwise, this is easily viewed as a superhero/supervillain origin movie. This is a must view for fans of superhero stories, fans of comic book movies, and those with an interest in the nature versus nurture debate.