A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Brightburn, produced by Guardians of the Galaxy's James Gunn, is a gory horror movie crossed with a superhero story. It's about a child with Superman-like powers who decides to act selfishly and without remorse instead of for good/others. Expect extreme, bloody violence, including several brutal killings, dead bodies, and shock effects (a shard of glass in an eye, a torn-off jaw, gurgling and choking on blood, etc.). Characters have and use guns: A 12-year-old boy is presented with a rifle as a present. There are also jump scares, creepy sounds, a nightmare sequence, and more. Language is strong, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. A married couple kisses and talks about having sex and getting pregnant. Characters socialize in a bar, and drinking and drunk driving are discussed. Elizabeth Banks and David Denman co-star.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In BRIGHTBURN, Kansas couple Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman) wish and hope for a child, but their dream is denied until one eventful night. Years later, their sweet, smart son, Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn), turns 12 and suddenly everything changes. He starts acting strangely, so Kyle decides to have "the talk" with him. Afterward, Brandon starts to exhibit powers, such as super strength and speed and heat vision. And he starts using them to get what he wants and to protect himself -- up to the point of killing. He even devises a signature to leave at the scene of his crimes, as if proud of his handiwork. Meanwhile, a secret hidden in the family's barn reveals three words that will determine his dark path.
Is it any good?
This attempt at a fresh take on superhero movies falters just after its setup, never really exploring its potentially interesting theme. Instead, it just becomes a gory Omen knockoff with superpowers. Produced by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy and GOTG Vol. 2) and written by his cousin Mark Gunn and brother Brian Gunn, Brightburn does start with a terrific concept. What if, say, Superman's adoptive parents in Smallville failed to instill in him a sense of right and wrong, of generosity and kindness, of empathy? The answer is that he could easily have become a little monster, simply destroying everything. And that's about it.
The curious thing is that the parents, played by Banks and Denman, don't seem to be terrible people, and they more or less earn our sympathy -- for a time, anyway. As for Brandon, after he takes his first life, he becomes impossible to root for. Indeed, it's unclear exactly what we're supposed to root for. Brightburn quickly becomes a basic slasher movie, but without the simplicity of one; it's a tragedy demoted to a gorefest. At least The Omen -- and, even better, Joe Dante's "It's a Good Life" episode of Twilight Zone: The Movie -- dug a little deeper into the "evil child" theme. Brightburn instead stays on the surface, content to prioritize blood and guts over characters and ideas.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Brightburn's violence. Is it shocking or thrilling? Does it all feel necessary to the story?
How does Brightburn compare to other superhero movies? Do all superheroes make a choice of what to do with their powers? What helps make this decision?
Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of horror movies?
What makes the "evil child" subgenre of horror (The Bad Seed, Village of the Damned, The Omen, etc.) so interesting?
What's the relationship between the parents and the child like? Do they communicate? Do they show support?
- In theaters: May 24, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: August 20, 2019
- Cast: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn
- Director: David Yarovesky
- Studio: Sony Pictures Entertainment
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: horror violence/bloody images, and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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