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. It stars Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones and Meredith Hagner. It 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 is produced and financed by Screen Gems, Stage 6 Films, The H Collective and Troll Court Entertainment.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||David Yarovesky|
|Music by||Timothy Williams|
|Edited by||Andrew S. Eisen|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||$32.9 million|
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. It plays the concept of Superman for explicit horror.
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 criticism for its poor writing, special effects and lack of potential. The film, however, was a moderate box office success, earning $32 million against a budget of $6–12 million.
In 2006, a spaceship crash-lands in Brightburn, Kansas, on a farm owned by Tori and Kyle Breyer, who have been having difficulties conceiving a child. Inside the ship is an infant child that the couple adopts and name Brandon. They hide the spaceship in their barn's cellar to hide the truth from him.
Years later, the ship begins transmitting an alien message, drawing Brandon to it. He sleepwalks to the barn and tries to open the locked cellar, chanting the craft's message, but Tori intervenes and takes him back to the house. The next day as he attempts to mow the lawn, Brandon has difficulty starting the mower and inadvertently launches it into the air. He approaches it, curious about his newfound strength, and stops the motorized blade with his hand.
Nearing puberty, Brandon is an extremely high achiever at his school, which other students tease him about, but a girl named Caitlyn defends him. While celebrating Brandon's 12th birthday at a diner where Caitlyn's mother, Erica, is the waitress, his uncle Noah and aunt Merilee give him a hunting rifle, which Kyle refuses to let Brandon have. Brandon causes a scene, so Kyle and Tori leave with him. Kyle suspects something is wrong with Brandon and finds him absentmindedly chewing and mangling his fork at breakfast. Tori finds photos of lingerie and swimsuit models, surgical diagrams, and graphic photos of human organs in Brandon's room. Brandon, Kyle, and Tori take a camping trip, and Kyle attempts to give Brandon the "talk." That night, Brandon travels to Caitlyn's house, hiding in her room until she notices him. Returning home, Kyle finds their chickens terrified by Brandon, who is standing over them. Later that night, Kyle finds the chickens slaughtered with the coop's locked door torn off its hinges. Kyle insists Brandon was responsible, but Tori insists it was a wolf attack.
During a trust fall exercise at school, Brandon falls towards Caitlyn, but she does not catch him, accusing him of being a pervert. When she is forced to help him up, Brandon crushes her hand in retaliation. He is suspended and required to meet with his aunt Merilee, the school counselor, but Erica demands that Brandon be arrested. That night at home, Brandon is drawn to the ship again, and he breaks the lock on the cellar door. Tori interrupts him 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 angrily leaves, finally understanding the ship's message: "Take the world." In his rage, Brandon develops heat vision. Brandon visits Caitlyn with flowers, who tells him that her mother has forbidden her from talking to him. Wearing a red mask and cape, Brandon stalks Erica while she is closing the diner and murders her. Police investigate the scene, finding a symbol looking like two Bs back-to-back drawn on a window, and Erica is nowhere to be found.
The following day at school, Brandon is meeting with Merilee, who informs him that she is required to report his progress to police, but he threatens her not to do so. That night, Brandon stalks Merilee through her house until she goes to bed. Noah arrives home from the bar with Kyle and friends 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 truck, but Brandon lifts and crashes the vehicle, killing Noah. He uses Noah's blood to draw the same symbol from Erica's murder on the road. Brandon returns home shirtless, telling his parents that other students tore his shirt while playing soccer late after school, but refuses to give it to Tori.
Merilee calls Kyle and Tori, and they rush to the hospital to learn from a grieving Merilee that Brandon had gone to her house, contradicting Brandon's story about playing soccer. The next morning, Tori and Kyle inform Brandon of Noah's death, but Brandon has no reaction, which alarms Tori and angers Kyle. When Kyle accuses Brandon and grabs him, Brandon violently shoves him. Kyle finds Brandon's blood-stained shirt and shows it to Tori, but she refuses to believe Brandon killed Noah.
Kyle plans a hunting trip as an attempt to kill Brandon. While Brandon is examining deer tracks, Kyle shoots him, but the bullet bounces off his head. Brandon kills Kyle with his heat vision. Meanwhile, the town sheriff arrives at the Breyers' house and asks Tori to see Brandon. Tori tells the sheriff that Kyle and Brandon aren't home, so he shows Tori the symbol found at the scenes of Erica's and Noah's deaths. Tori claims ignorance, having seen Brandon drawing the symbol before, but then finds Brandon's notebook with disturbing drawings of his murders and his message to "take the world," which brings her to the realization that Kyle was right about Brandon. She attempts to call Kyle, but Brandon answers the phone and informs her that Kyle is gone.
Brandon returns home and destroys the house as Tori calls the police, but Brandon brutally murders the sheriff and his deputy. Remembering that the ship can injure Brandon, Tori runs to the barn. In the cellar, she finds Erica's mutilated body nailed to a wall and surrounded by symbols in blood. Tori arms herself with a piece of the ship to stab Brandon during an embrace but fails when Brandon anticipates the attack. Enraged, Brandon flies Tori through the barn roof and above the clouds and drops her to her death. An airplane flies towards Brandon, and the scene goes dark. The next day, police, paramedics, and FBI are at the farm investigating the airplane crash, which killed everyone onboard. News coverage reports that Brandon is the only surviving resident of the area.
In the mid-credits scene, Brandon begins his worldwide attacks. 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: 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
- 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: Brandon's love interest
- Becky Wahlstrom as Erica Connor: Caitlyn's mother who dislikes 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
Rainn Wilson cameos in a photograph during the mid-credits as his character Crimson Bolt from James Gunn's Super. Mike Dunston, Terence Rosemore and Elizabeth Becka appear as a P.E. Teacher, a reporter and Brandon's school principal.
Gunn had been 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.
The building collapse was filmed in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. It was the real demolition of The Sir John Carling Building on July 13th, 2014. The stock footage was shot by filmmaker Chris Chitaroni. 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. In 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 in 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 review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 57% based on 197 reviews, with an average rating of 5.61/10. 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%.
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." Richard Whittaker of The Austin Chronicle wrote, "It may be an elevator pitch stretched to 90 minutes, and never aspires to more than that, but it's a fine and distinct funhouse ride designed to elicit cackles, then be forgotten about by the next ride."
In a negative review, Lindsey Bahr of Associated Press wrote, "Brightburn was a good idea. Unfortunately the creativity stopped there." Ed Gonzalez from Slant also gave a negative review, "The way the film shuttles through its 90 minutes, it’s as if it’s been stripped of its most crucial narrative parts."
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."
In June 2019, producer James Gunn responded to a user on Instagram asking about the sequel. Gunn stated that discussion of the sequel was happening, but he would be busy writing and directing The Suicide Squad and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
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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