‘Brightburn’ Exposes The Hidden Darkness of Superhero Origins

After 20 years of superhero cinematic domination, it’s hard to get excited about another superpower origin story. And at least at first, Brightburn’s story seems all-too familiar. But this is not a typical superhero movie.

The trailer released over the weekend introduces a superpowered alien with an origin story deliberately echoing Superman’s. An alien spacecraft carrying a baby lands in a forest; a childless couple hears the crash, finds the child and raises him as their own. But while Clark Kent’s love for his earth parents inspires him to protect all human life, Brightburn’s alien child is downright evil.

And as the trailer shows, an evil superboy is a disturbing prospect. He’d be an alien creature with vast destructive powers who’d have good reason to view humans like insects. If he snapped, he’d shred through everyone and everything around him like paper. Depending on how long he raged, he could be an extinction-level threat.

But the trailer promises more than simple shallow darkness. The filmmakers, including Guardians of The Galaxy director James Gunn, have clearly deeply considered superheroes and audiences for superhero stories. It’s ridiculous to say a story about a boy alien who can fly could be realistic. What we see in the trailer, however, seems far more realistic than wholesome middle Americans convincing an all-powerful alien to uphold truth, justice and the American way. Superman’s love for humanity really exists to flatter audiences, telling them that if God came down to earth, he’d be an American.

But what if Superman never meshed with human society because at his core he felt no real connection to it? It looks like Brightburn will tackle that question with brutal force.