In the realm of franchise moviemaking, the recent box office hit Aladdin and the comparatively underperforming Booksmart have dominated discussions. However, let’s not overlook another intriguing yet underperforming curiosity from Sony and Screen Gems – Brightburn.
A Unique Concept: Superhero Horror
Brightburn, produced by James Gunn and Kenneth Huang, takes a unique approach to storytelling. It ingeniously flips the Superboy/Superman origin tale and delves into the twisted morality of its protagonist, Brandon Breyer (portrayed by Jackson A. Dunn), to create a chilling supernatural horror movie. Penned by Mark Gunn and Brian Gunn and skillfully directed by David Yarovesky, the film draws inspiration from Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel while also infusing elements of the Moses parable.
In the core narrative of Moses, a lost infant finds love and protection with a caring family, only to eventually rebel against the very land that embraced him. In Man of Steel, this concept is inverted, with “Moses” siding with the proverbial Egyptians against “God/Zod.” Brightburn effectively serves as a metaphor for toxic masculinity, with Brandon’s initial acts of wrath triggered by his infatuation with a young female classmate. Additionally, the movie serves as a gripping melodrama, portraying the journey of two loving parents who slowly come to the harrowing realization that their beloved child is a murderous psychopath. Comparable to thought-provoking films like We Need to Talk About Kevin and Kung Fu Panda 2, Brightburn tackles profound themes within its gripping narrative.
Superhero and Horror: A Risky Combination
While superhero and horror genres have individually dominated the box office in recent years, their fusion has proven to be a commercially risky endeavor. Notable examples like the Hellboy reboot and Brightburn demonstrate that combining these two popular genres does not necessarily guarantee success. This raises the question of whether audiences were uninterested in seeing a subversion of the Superman mythos or if the concept itself failed to resonate. Surprisingly, despite the overall success of superhero movies by incorporating different genres, the blend of horror and superhero tropes has yet to achieve similar triumphs.
Films like Logan (which embraced a western theme), Ant-Man (presented as a heist flick), and The Dark Knight (a city politics/crime melodrama) have been lauded for their successful amalgamation of superhero narratives with other genres. However, the combination of horror and superhero elements has yet to yield comparable results. Nonetheless, this intriguing blend continues to captivate filmmakers and audiences alike, leaving us wondering if major franchises like DC Films or MCU will find success in this unconventional fusion.
The Perils of Franchise-Building
One aspect that might have contributed to the underperformance of Brightburn is its approach to franchise-building. While many successful franchise-starters like Spider-Man, Batman Begins, Casino Royale, and Star Trek seamlessly interwove origin stories with riveting plotlines, others have struggled when placing too much emphasis on setting up sequels.
Brightburn subtly reveals itself as a prequel to its potential franchise, acting as an origin story that leaves the film’s premise open for exploration in a sequel. This kind of approach can be polarizing, as some moviegoers appreciate the groundwork laid for future installments, while others prefer self-contained stories that stand on their own merits. Nonetheless, it must be acknowledged that Brightburn manages to work as a stand-alone film, thanks to its gripping narrative and modest $6 million budget. Whether or not a sequel materializes, the film’s cult status among fans remains a testament to its compelling storytelling.
In conclusion, Brightburn ingeniously brings together the horror and superhero genres to create a thought-provoking and chilling tale. While its unconventional blend presents commercial risks, it exemplifies the ongoing quest for innovation in the film industry. Whether the future holds more successful attempts to marry these two popular genres or if other franchises will take up the challenge, only time will tell. In the ever-evolving landscape of cinema, Brightburn stands as an intriguing exploration of what happens when horror meets superhero, leaving audiences both captivated and contemplative.