Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Yarovesky|
|Music by||Timothy Williams|
|Edited by||Andrew S. Eisen|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||$32.3 million|
Brightburn is a 2019 American superhero horror film directed by David Yarovesky and produced by James Gunn and Kenneth Huang. It stars Elizabeth Banks, David Denman and Jackson A. Dunn, and follows a young alien boy raised on Earth who realizes he has superpowers, soon using them to terrorize his town. The film is produced and financed by Screen Gems, Stage 6 Films, Troll Court Entertainment, and The H Collective.
Brightburn was announced as Untitled James Gunn Horror Project in December 2017. Aside from Gunn producing the film, his cousin Mark and brother Brian Gunn wrote the screenplay. 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 praised the horror elements and Banks' performance, but felt that the film did not deliver its full potential.
In 2006, Tori and Kyle Breyer are living in Brightburn, Kansas. When a spaceship crashes near their farm with a baby boy inside, the couple adopt him, naming him Brandon and hiding the spaceship in their barn cellar. Twelve years later, the ship begins transmitting an alien message, leading Brandon to discover he has superhuman strength and invulnerability. He sleepwalks to the barn and tries to open the cellar, chanting the craft's message, but Tori intervenes.
Nearing puberty, Brandon becomes disobedient and disrespectful. Celebrating Brandon's birthday at a diner, his uncle Noah and aunt Merilee give him a hunting rifle, which Kyle refuses to let Brandon have, and Brandon causes a scene. This makes Kyle force Brandon out of the diner and leave with Tori.
Kyle suspects something is wrong with Brandon, and Tori finds photos of lingerie and swimsuit models, surgical diagrams, and graphic photos of human organs in Brandon’s room. On a family camping trip, Kyle has an awkward talk with Brandon about sexuality and masturbation, telling him it is okay to occasionally act on his sexual urges. That same night, Brandon, presumably using superhuman speed, travels to the house of his classmate Caitlyn, hiding in her room until she notices him. Returning home, Kyle notices their chickens are terrified by Brandon; that night, Kyle finds the chickens slaughtered with the coop’s locked door torn off its hinges. While Tori suggests a wolf attack, Kyle insists Brandon was responsible.
During a trust fall exercise at school, Brandon falls when Caitlyn does not want to touch him. Brandon crushes her hand in retaliation and is suspended, requiring him to meet with his aunt Merilee, the school counselor. Tori interrupts Brandon as he levitates above the open cellar, chanting the ship's message, and he falls and cuts himself on the spaceship, the first time he has ever been injured. Tori reveals the truth about his arrival on Earth, and Brandon leaves, finally understanding the ship's message: "Take the world."
Brandon visits Caitlyn, who tells him that her mother, Erica, has forbidden her from talking to him. A masked Brandon stalks and murders Erica. Merilee, concerned about Brandon's lack of remorse,[N 1] tells him that she is required to report his progress to police. Brandon tries to intimidate Merilee at her home, but she sends him away. Unbeknownst to Merilee, Brandon dons his mask and stalks her through the house until she goes to bed. Noah comes home to find a masked Brandon hiding in the closet, and threatens to tell his parents, prompting Brandon to lash out. Terrified, Noah tries to escape in his car but Brandon lifts and crashes the vehicle, killing Noah, and draws a symbol on the road in Noah's blood.
Brandon returns home shirtless after school, telling his parents that other students tore his shirt, but refuses to give it to Tori. His parents learn from a grieving Merilee that Brandon had gone to her house, and are alarmed when Brandon does not react to their news of Noah’s death. When Kyle grabs him, Brandon violently shoves him. Kyle shows Brandon's blood-stained shirt to Tori, but she refuses to believe Brandon killed Noah. Taking Brandon hunting, Kyle shoots him in the back of the head but the bullet does no damage. Heartbroken, Brandon kills Kyle with his heat vision.
After the sheriff shows Tori the symbol found at the scenes of Erica’s and Noah’s deaths, Tori finds Brandon’s notebook with drawings of the murders, a masked Brandon destroying the Earth with the words "take the world", and the symbol. Tori realized her husband was right about Brandon and attempts to reach Kyle, but Brandon answers the phone and informs her Kyle is dead. As Brandon destroys the house, Tori calls the police, but Brandon brutally murders the sheriff and his deputies. In the barn, Tori finds Erica's mutilated body nailed to a wall and surrounded by symbols in blood. Remembering Brandon's cut, Tori arms herself with a sharp piece of the ship to stab him, but fails when Brandon anticipates the attack. Enraged, Brandon flies Tori through the barn roof (injuring her face) and above the clouds, and drops her to her death, then crashes an airplane into the farm, killing everyone aboard, to cover up his murders.
News reports and a conspiracy theorist discuss assorted destruction in Brightburn, the existence of other super beings, and pleads with humanity to take action.
- Elizabeth Banks as Tori Breyer
- David Denman as Kyle Breyer
- Jackson A. Dunn as Brandon Breyer / Brightburn
- Abraham Clinkscales as Royce
- Christian Finlayson as Fauxhawk
- Jennifer Holland as Ms. Espenschied
- Emmie Hunter as Caitlyn
- Matt Jones as Noah McNichol
- Meredith Hagner as Merilee McNichol
- Becky Wahlstrom as Erica
- Terence Rosemore as P.E. Teacher
- Gregory Alan Williams as Sheriff Deever
- Elizabeth Becka as Principal
- Anne Humphrey as Deputy Aryes
- Steve Agee as EJ
- Stephen Blackehart as Travis
- Mike Dunston as Reporter
- Michael Rooker as The Big T
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."
Brightburn grossed $17.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $14.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $32.1 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 review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 56% based on 188 reviews, with an average rating of 5.57/10. 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." Metacritic assigned the film 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%.
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 mid-credits scene, 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 teaches [one] what that new direction may be.”
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Also, as his aunt discovers, Brandon is incapable of showing remorse — a classic sign of a psychopath.
- "How 'Brightburn' Is Rethinking the Superhero Genre". The Hollywood Reporter. March 6, 2019. Retrieved May 15, 2019.
The fact that "Brightburn" is the code name for the superpowered boy, the name of the town in Kansas and the title of the film is a reference to the Superman TV series Smallville (2001-2011), which also took a look at the growing problems of a superpowered teenager.
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