For young married couple Tori and Kyle Breyer, life on their sprawling rural farm in Brightburn, Kansas is one step away from perfect; try as they might, Tori simply can’t conceive, but when you wish upon a falling star, be careful, for you might actually get what you ask for, and with a rumbling the heavens open and their lives change.

A decade and more flash past, and their son Brandon is about to turn twelve; he is aware that he is adopted but they have never told him the truth of his origin, but in the barn something is calling to him at night, something powerful which awakes a matching power within Brandon.

Where before he was a sweet, gentle and obedient child he is now becoming wilful and surly, lying to his parent and causing trouble at school, but Tori and Kyle have no idea just how far he has already gone in testing himself on those inhabitants of Brightburn who have provoked his ire before he starts to test their patience and resolve as parents.

The second feature from director David Yarovesky, Brightburn is produced by Guardians of the Galaxy‘s James Gunn and indeed it is very much a family project, co-written by his brother Brian Gunn and cousin Mark Gunn and starring Elizabeth Banks who appeared in Gunn’s Slither and with a cameo by his frequent collaborator Michael Rooker.

The premise made clear in the trailers, Brightburn is a twist on the Superman origin story, a childless couple who find an orphan from the stars who rather than embracing truth, justice and the American way instead is first withdrawn and anti-social then later violently psychotic but with a full range of super powers in addition to hormonal disaffection and emotional outbursts.

Unfortunately, that sole twist is insufficient to support a ninety minute feature yet having achieved this masterstroke Messrs Gunn, Gunn, Gunn and Yarovesky apparently decided they had done all that was required of them and made no effort to develop the material beyond that elevator pitch, each scene played out exactly as could be predicted with paint-by-numbers emotion and soap opera dialogue, the audience always ahead of the characters who appear to paddle in a river in Egypt.

Banks and Angel‘s David Denman playing generic blue-collar middle-American farmers, no attempt is made to develop them as characters and as parents they are shockingly inept, continuing to act as though all is normal even though they have concealed an alien in their house for over ten years, nor is any effort made to create sympathy for Jackson A Dunn’s unambiguously unrepentant Brendan.

With more flickering neon than even Gothika, every supposedly sinister event is telegraphed and laboured, and while the premise of We Need to Talk About Kal-El should have been aflame with potential neither Banks nor Dunn are given material to allow them to even attempt to emulate the performances of Swinton and Miller.

Brightburn is on general release from July 19th



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