Great lead, average film: My thoughts on “Brightburn”

Rating: ★★★

It was difficult to avoid trailers for James Gunn’s Brightburn, and as a result it was difficult to avoid my excitement too. I had very much been looking forward to this one, as I’m always interested in characters that use their powers for evil instead of good.

In a similar vein to Josh Trank’s Chronicle, the film follows a teenager who starts to realise he’s got special abilities, but ends up having very dark intentions. For Brightburn, though, it’s because Brandon Breyer (Jackson A Dunn) is not of this world, and he was adopted by Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman) who desperately tried to hide the truth from him.

Jackson A. Dunn is undoubtedly the star of the show here, and a young actor that I’m incredibly impressed with. His emotional range is really fantastic, and the way he portrays genuine psychopathic behaviour feels almost too real. I did find myself lost in his performance, and scared of him too. I really hope to see him on another project in the near future.

Elizabeth Banks and David Denman shared great chemistry too, with conflicting opinions as Brandon starts to uncover who he really is. In a way its cliched, a couple fail to conceive and a child (or ‘blessing’ as Tori often calls it) falls to earth, but it takes that trope and turns it into something monstrous that tears the family apart. There’s nothing angelic about this kid.

The biggest downside to Brightburn for me, is that the trailer gave away all the film’s best moments. I could predict what was going to happen, and there were no real surprises for me. The scenes the trailer missed out were disappointingly average, and nothing special. It could’ve benefited from teasing the audience more.

There is also one scene in particular that has very bad special effects, and ruined the emotion I was supposed to be feeling during it. I wish they had decided to do something more subtly brutal here, as that would’ve upped the emotional factor during this crucial moment.

It’s even more disappointing because I did enjoy certain effects, and the use of the POV camera on victims to make it more disturbingly intimate. I was also impressed with the level of gore and the creativeness of the murders, and how it helped to shape Brandon’s character development throughout.

The film had the potential to be more well polished, but sadly repeatedly opted for big and bold effects that were too jarring for me as a viewer. Having said that, the strength of Brandon’s character, the dynamics between the family, and the strength of one or two scenes helped to redeem the film a bit.

It’s entertaining to watch on the big screen with some effective scares and some gory moments that aren’t for those with a weak stomach. I’m happy I spent an evening watching it, but I can’t say I’ll be rushing to see it again.

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