|Directed by||David Yarovesky|
|Edited by||Andrew S. Eisen|
|Music by||Timothy Williams|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||$32.9 million|
Brightburn is a 2019 American superhero horror film directed by David Yarovesky, written by Mark Gunn and Brian Gunn, and produced by James Gunn and Kenneth Huang. Starring Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones and Meredith Hagner, the plot follows Brandon Breyer, a young boy of extraterrestrial origin reared on Earth who realizes he has superpowers. Upon learning of them and being brainwashed by the ship he arrived in, Brandon rejects his humanity and turns to evil, opting to terrorize his hometown, including his parents. The film was produced and financed by Screen Gems, Stage 6 Films, The H Collective and Troll Court Entertainment.
Brightburn was announced as Untitled James Gunn Horror Project in December 2017. Aside from Gunn as a producer, his cousin Mark and brother Brian penned the screenplay, which adapts the concept of Superman for explicit horror. Principal photography began in March 2018 and wrapped in May of that same year.
Brightburn was released in the United States on May 24, 2019 by Sony Pictures Releasing. It received mixed reviews from critics, who felt that the film did not deliver on the full potential of its premise. The film earned $32 million against a budget of $6–12 million.
In 2006, a spaceship crashes in Brightburn, Kansas. Tori and Kyle Breyer, who are unable to conceive a child, look inside to find an infant. The couple adopts the child and names him Brandon. They hide the spaceship in their barn to conceal the truth from him.
In 2018, the ship begins transmitting an alien message, causing Brandon to sleepwalk to the barn. He tries to open the cellar, but Tori intervenes. Brandon begins to exhibit superhuman powers.
One day during a trust exercise in PE, Brandon falls toward a girl in his class named Caitlyn; she lets him drop to the ground and accuses him of being a pervert, having previously seen him in her room at night. Caitlyn is forced to help Brandon up, and Brandon, frustrated by her accusation, crushes her hand. That night, Brandon sleepwalks once again to the ship and breaks into the barn where it is hidden. Tori follows and sees him levitating, chanting the ship's message: "Take the world." Tori reveals the truth of his origin, and Brandon goes on a rampage, killing Erika Connor, Caitlyn's mother, after Erika expressed displeasure towards him because he broke Caitlyn's hand. Police find a series of runes drawn on a window while investigating Erika's disappearance.
The next day, Brandon kills his uncle Noah by lifting and dropping his vehicle. The following morning, Tori and Kyle inform Brandon of Noah's death, but Brandon shows no emotion or empathy, angering them both. Kyle accuses Brandon of murder and grabs him, and Brandon retaliates by violently shoving him. Kyle finds Brandon's blood-stained shirt and shows it to Tori, but she refuses to believe it.
Kyle takes Brandon on a father-son hunting trip in the woods. Kyle attempts to shoot and kill Brandon with his hunting rifle, but the execution fails when the bullet bounces off the back of Brandon's head. Realizing what Kyle has just tried to do, Brandon chases him and kills him with heat vision. A sheriff arrives at the Breyers' and asks to see Brandon. Tori tells the sheriff that Kyle and Brandon are not home, so he shows Tori the symbol found at the scenes of Erika's and Noah's deaths. Tori finds Brandon's notebook with drawings of his murders and his message to "take the world" and begins to believe Kyle. She tries calling Kyle, but Brandon answers and implies he is now coming for Tori.
Brandon returns and begins destroying the house, easily killing all cops who come to the rescue. Remembering that the ship can injure Brandon, Tori runs to the barn and discovers Erika's eviscerated body. As Brandon pursues her, Tori tries to tell him about how much she loves him. Tori then tries to stab him with a piece of the ship, which Brandon sees coming and avoids. In retaliation, Brandon flies Tori miles into the sky above the clouds and drops her to her death, just as an airplane approaches. The next day, the airplane is revealed to have mysteriously crashed into the farmhouse (and the spaceship, Brandon's only known weakness, presumably destroyed), with the news reporting that everyone on board was killed and that Brandon was the only survivor.
During the credits, Brandon begins his worldwide attacks, which news reports cover. Brandon is also dubbed "Brightburn" by the media. A conspiracy theorist named Big T discusses the Brightburn incident and the existence of other super-powered beings, pleading with humanity to take action.
- Elizabeth Banks as Tori Breyer: Brandon's adoptive mother and Kyle's wife
- David Denman as Kyle Breyer: Brandon's adoptive father and Tori's husband
- Jackson A. Dunn as Brandon Breyer / Brightburn: a superpowered alien who is adopted by the Breyer family
- Matt Jones as Noah McNichol: Brandon's uncle and Merilee's husband
- Meredith Hagner as Merilee McNichol: Tori's sister, Brandon's aunt, and Noah's wife who works as the school counselor
- Abraham Clinkscales as Royce: a young boy who bullies Brandon
- Christian Finlayson as Fauxhawk: one of the kids who bullies Brandon
- Jennifer Holland as Ms. Espenschied: Brandon's school director
- Emmie Hunter as Caitlyn Connor: a girl who bullies Brandon
- Becky Wahlstrom as Erika Connor: Caitlyn's mother who bullies Brandon
- Gregory Alan Williams as Sheriff Deever: a local sheriff of the small town
- Anne Humphrey as Deputy Aryes: Deever's partner
- Steve Agee as EJ
- Stephen Blackehart as Travis
- Michael Rooker as the Big T: a conspiracy theory blogger who reports on the super-powered beings
Rainn Wilson cameos in a photograph during the credits as his character Crimson Bolt from James Gunn's Super. Mike Dunston, Terence Rosemore, and Elizabeth Becka appear as a gym teacher, a reporter, and Brandon's school principal.
The film was announced in December 2017, then untitled, with James Gunn as a producer, his brother Brian and cousin Mark writing the script, and David Yarovesky directing. In March 2018, Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Meredith Hagner and Matt Jones were cast. Gunn was set to appear on a panel to discuss the project at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2018, but his appearance was canceled after news broke that Disney had fired Gunn as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 due to offensive tweets.
Principal photography began in March 2018 and wrapped in May of the same year in the U.S. state of Georgia. The building collapse was filmed in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada during the real demolition of the Sir John Carling Building on July 13, 2014. The middle school scenes were shot at the now-defunct Patrick Henry High School in Stockbridge, Georgia. It is the same location used for both Hawkins Middle and Hawkins High Schools in seasons 1 and 2 of Stranger Things (2016).
There were plans to promote the film at the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con in July, but it was pulled at the last minute in the wake of James Gunn's removal from Walt Disney Studios and Marvel Studios, only for Disney and Marvel to reconcile with Gunn nine months later. On December 8, 2018, the first trailer for Brightburn was released online.
Critics viewed the trailer as an "Ultraman horror movie" due to the intentional similarities to Superman's origin story and as a deconstruction of the character. Fast Company stated that "although it's not officially a Superman movie, it walks viewers through every step of Clark Kent's origin story before taking a hard left turn".
On April 3, 2019, an art contest was launched after the release of the trailer to promote the film, and had concluded on May 20. The winners of the contest had their artworks used in marketing for the film, and received $2,000. On May 21, 2019, IGN promoted the film by uploading a prank of unsuspecting volunteers with the character Brandon Breyer. It was uploaded to their website and YouTube channel.
Another art contest was launched on August 5 to promote the home media release of the film titled "Band with Brightburn". Submissions had to depict other supervillains in reference to the ending scene of the film hinting at other superpowered characters. Actor Jackson A. Dunn was the judge of the contest, and it was sponsored by Collider.
The film was released on Digital HD on August 6, 2019 and on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Ultra HD on August 20, 2019.
Brightburn grossed $17.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $15.5 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $32.8 million.
In the United States and Canada, Brightburn was released alongside Aladdin and Booksmart, and was projected to gross around $12–16 million from 2,607 theaters in its four-day opening weekend. The film made $3 million on its first day, including $950,000 from Thursday night previews. It ended up underperforming, grossing $7.8 million over three days (and $9.6 million over the four), finishing in fifth. In its second weekend the film made $2.3 million, dropping 70.5% and finishing in ninth.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 58% based on 205 reviews, with an average rating of 5.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Although Brightburn doesn't fully deliver on the pitch-black promise of its setup, it's still enough to offer a diverting subversion of the superhero genre." On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 44 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it 2.5 out of 5 stars and a "definite recommend" of 39%.
Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "While not exactly original, the premise is certainly effective enough. But Brightburn lacks the visual stylization or wit to elevate it from the realm of the crudely effective B-movie." James White from Empire wrote, "Crossbreeding superhero tropes with horror staples was an idea laden with promise. Brightburn is enlivened by trademark James Gunn black comedy, but hamstrung by sketchy writing and a botched sense of dread."
Alex Arabian from The Playlist wrote, "The film is a gem, especially for anyone yearning for a superhero film that gleefully torches the familiar 'good versus evil' formula and introduces far more sinister sensibilities."
In May 2019, director David Yarovesky stated that upon the film potentially being a success, the universe of Brightburn would be expanded upon.
In a later interview with Collider, Yarovesky confirmed that the film's credits making reference to a half-man/half-sea creature terrorizing the seas, Rainn Wilson's character Frank Darbo / The Crimson Bolt from Super, and a powerful witch who chokes her victims with a rope, was intended to set up a sequel in addition noting that an alternate ending to the film featured Emmie Hunter's "Caitlyn—[ending] with her in a lab fastening a robot arm on her broken arm, and her just pissed off", as well as mentioning "tons" of other such endings as having been discussed, as well as stating that, "[i]f we were to expand the Brightburn universe in other installments and in other ways, we would probably be doing it in the exact same way, in total secrecy and then drop a cinematic trailer at some point that kind of teases [one] what that new direction may be".
In August 2019, actor Jackson A. Dunn stated in an interview with Screen Rant that he would be interested in reprising his role as Brandon Breyer. In addition, Dunn said that he would like that future films cast up-and-coming actors in the lead roles.
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With Georgia standing in for Kansas
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