In 2019, David Yarovesky introduced the world to a unique scenario: What if Superman was evil? Now, the thought of a villainess Superman has been explored in comics numerous times. The caped crusader has also been portrayed as the bad guy in different forms of media as well, most notably in the video game, Injustice 2. However, the idea of Superman being the villain in a live-action film is certainly fresh and intriguing. However, the problem with Brightburn is that the film ends up being a run-of-the-mill slasher flick. As a whole, Brightburn was a solid film outing, but it’s definitely not the type of film that truly capitalizes on the notion of an evil Superman. Sure, Brandon is clearly an overpowered psychopath, but in the vein of a typical horror movie villain.
If the exploration of an evil Superman is going to be showcased, then it’s better to fully commit to the premise. One of the core issues with Brightburn is that it feels afraid to really give you a bad Superman. Meaning, that the film doesn’t really dive into the world of the Kryptonian that explains why Superman is suddenly a bad guy. This is the man who has a squeaky-clean image and has vowed to rid the planet from evil, so why has his narrative changed all of the sudden? Obviously, Brandon isn’t Clark Kent, but he’s still a Kryptonian. Why has his worldview changed into this something so dark and grim? Yes, Brightburn does explain these things, but it’s a generic villain origin story. How many times have we seen the villain bullied? Heck, even Joker has the bullying tactic as well. This kid is clearly a psychopath, and it would’ve been neat to dive into why his mindset instantly goes to murder.
Where was he born? What were his true parents like? What is the mythology of Brandon’s world prior to being dropped on Earth? There are so many fascinating layers to exploring a villainess Superman. In fact, Injustice 2 does an excellent job at explaining why Clark Kent doesn’t have a positive mindset on the world. Superman thinks that the rational solution to getting rid of villains is by killing them, and while Brightburn didn’t necessarily have to go in that direction, focusing on a beaten and broken Superman would’ve been a better direction. Superman may be an invincible being, but he’s still a man with emotions and feelings. Why not focus on Superman being unable to handle a world overrun with villains? What’s the point in making a Superman film if you can’t truly have fun with the property? A sea of change is necessary for the caped crusader, as there’s only so many times that the story of Clark Kent/Superman can be adapted in a similar manner onscreen. Does that mean going the route of focusing on a young kid was a mistake? Not necessarily. There’s a fun story that could’ve been told with Brandon, but again, the film skips over the more interesting part, which is where he grew up.
Brightburn has big questions but isn’t focused on answering them. The film desperately wants to showcase Superman as evil but doesn’t want to explore the roots of it. It just wants him to be a new horror movie icon in vain of Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. You can’t simply introduce an evil Superman and present something extremely basic and generic. Plus, it’s clear that Brandon has no connection to the DC world. He’s just a loose cannon that won’t ever show up in an actual DCEU movie. That’s a shame because there’s plenty to like about the Brightburn version of Superman. Heck, Warner Brothers could’ve experimented with Superman vs. Superman, with Brightburn being the origin story that takes place in the world of the DCEU and then the sequel going into something of that nature. There’s plenty of avenues that the 2019 feature should’ve explored. As I previously asked, what’s the point in teasing an evil Superman if you’re not going to take advantage of the property? Still, if Brightburn simply wanted to focus on the horror element then it should’ve been something more than a generic creature feature. His origin story should’ve felt unique and so should the world be surrounding him. The thrills should’ve played up more of the comic book aspects and the horror should’ve been more shocking or scary. Brightburn is a solid idea that hopefully isn’t abandoned because of the poor box office return. This is one property that should get a reboot, but one that hopefully capitalizes on the true potential of an evil Superman.