A young couple (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) in rural Kansas find a crashed spacecraft with a child aboard. Raising him (Jackson A. Dunn) as their own, the boy's powers begin to manifest on his twelfth birthday with dire, catastrophic consequences.
'BrightBurn' is exactly the kind of cynical mash-up you'd expect from studio executives eager to make a quick payout. Take a cheap, easy-to-produce horror and slap some superhero shit on it and push out between screenings of 'Avengers: Endgame' and 'Aquaman' to ride the crest of the wave. Bish, bash, bosh. There isn't a hint of an original thought or idea in 'BrightBurn', and why would there be? After all, both horror and superhero stories have been flogged up and down the release calendar, so why not put them together?
The movie follows the story of Superman beat for beat, setting it in rural Kansas, an attractive young couple finding a lost child, rearing him with love and attention, and then it suddenly takes a sharp turn into slasher horror. It would be fine, even enjoyable, if it was at least trying to do something unique within the confines of both genres. From the very opening scene, you can see the turns and the layering from a mile off.
Elizabeth Banks, who is a talented actor and a sharp director, is utterly wasted in the role of Martha Kent, sorry Generic Mother #1. Likewise, David Denman, equally talented actor, has nothing to do here but remind us all of Kevin Costner's decent turn in 'Man of Steel'. Even the child actor, Jackson A. Dunn, plays it all so safe that you are never once surprised by 'BrightBurn', even in the final credits where it points itself towards a shared universe.
Again, it's the level of cynicism on display in 'BrightBurn' that makes it all so galling to watch. It's not that superhero stories are some sacred cow that can't be touched - far, far from it. If anything, it's that they have become so achingly predictable that we can now transplant the same idea into a horror setting, and it's still as obvious as you'd expect. David Yarovesky's direction takes cues from the rust-tinged Americana of 'Man of Steel' and modern airhorn-style horror to create something that's so blandly serviceable, it'll probably do decent box office and spawn a couple of sequels in the process.