Brightburn is as close to an evil Superman that we will probably ever see on the big screen. Here we will look at the 5 things that stayed the same and the 5 differences from mainstream comics.
Directed by David Yarovesky and written by Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn. It is the story of a twelve-year-old boy that finds out he is an alien and has superpowers, but isn’t your daddy’s Superman. It is a great concept that stays very close to the Superman mythos. He has a similar origin and power set. It’s even set in Kansas, but that isn’t the only thing that the story has.
10 Similar: The Basic Superman Origin
We all know it: an alien ship crash lands near a Kansas farm and a baby boy is adopted by the residents of that farm. Brightburn has much of the same start. Even down to the parents having fertility issues. Now it isn’t a full retelling, since Brandon doesn't know of his powers until he hits twelve years old. Unlike Superman who instantly shows his invulnerability and strength.
We get hints of this as the movie progresses. His dad says that he has never been cut or even had a bruise, but as an audience, we don’t see him use his powers until he throws a lawnmower across the yard.
9 Different: The Electromagnetic Interference
Unlike Superman, Brandon seems to send out an electromagnetic field anytime he uses his powers. It flickers lights and TVs and even seems to interfere with communication devices. This is something that isn’t normally seen with the power sets that Brandon possesses, but it is an interesting take.
This allows him to play with his prey before going in for the kill shot, or to cut off communications so he isn’t found out. It also helps the uniqueness of some of his kills. In one gruesome instance, he makes a lightbulb explode and penetrate the victims eye, causing their vision to be impaired and making them an easy target for the faster than light villain.
8 Similar: Powers
Speaking of powers, from what the movie showed, Brandon has the basic powers you think of when you think of Superman. The ability to fly, check. Invulnerability, check. Super strength, check. Faster than a speeding bullet, check. Laser eyes, double check.
Brandon just doesn’t have the outrageous abilities like X-ray vision or frost breath (the last is debatable since during one scene he fogs up an entire diner to show his symbols on the windows). It also seems that his strength is limited at this point. He is shown picking up a car and decimating human beings, but he can’t lift an entire house, and has problems breaking a metal chain on a trap door.
7 Different: Alien Language
Brandon seems to be able to understand and speak an alien language communicated directly from his ship. This isn’t seen very often and when it is, it usually is interpreted as English to us all. In the movie, we just get blurbs of what sounds like gibberish, until Brandon himself deciphers it. This allows us to know what it is saying to him.
This is an interesting take on the normal, “great power, great responsibility” cliche and makes it a mystery as to what is truly going on with Brandon until the reveal. It could have been played up a bit more, but for what it ends up giving us it makes sense in the universe.
6 Similar: The Girl That Knows The Secret
Just like in every early Superman story there is a girl who knows of his true power. Normally it is Lana Lang, but there are others. In Brightburn we get a very similar story, but it is darker than the Lana/Clark relationship. Brandon sees a kindred spirit in Kaitlyn after she tells him “smart guys rule the world”.
He tries to spark up a relationship with her by sneaking in her room and playing her music through her laptop, re-opening it when she closes it. He is spotted in the corner, but before her mom can get there he leaves. This freaks her out and she shuns him the next time she sees him, starting his path of super-villainy.
5 Different: Weakness
Just like all good superpowered beings, you gotta have a good weakness. Superman has kryptonite, Lantern has fear, Brightburn has his ship. It's shown early that his ship has the ability to cut him when he falls onto it. Other than that he has no other weaknesses. We see him get shot in the head, put his hand in a lawnmower blade and even get hit by a plane.
This is very similar to Superman’s kryptonite, with it being an item from his home planet that can wound or kill the superpowered being, but it has its own unique twist. Unlike kryptonite, it can’t just be found anywhere. There is only one source of the material, and from all accounts, Brandon is the only one with access to it. If they were to make a sequel, they would have to figure out a way for someone else to get their hands on it for there to be any suspense in the story.
4 Similar: Bullied at school
Just like Clark Kent, Brandon is bullied at school. But, unlike Clark, it isn’t because of him trying to hide his powers. It’s almost quite the opposite. Brandon uses his powers in school, possibly unknowingly at first, but eventually, he is outright using them in front of others.
After his classmates let him fall during a trust fall exercise, Brandon crushes Kaitlyn’s hand in front of his class for calling him a pervert. This is what really starts to set him off as Kaitlyn’s mom wants him arrested. She becomes his first target after he visits Kaitlyn and she informs him that her mom doesn’t want her to ever speak to him again.
3 Different: Aunt and Uncle
Superman’s family is never really more than Martha and Jon Kent. But, in Brightburn we see that Brandon has an aunt and uncle who play big roles in his life. We see that it is a tight-knit family at Brandon’s birthday party. His aunt is a counselor at the local elementary that Brandon attends and his mother’s sister. His uncle is lifelong friends with his dad.
We see the relationship as the movie progresses. His uncle buys him his first gun while his aunt takes the responsibility of talking to Brandon after his in school issues. She is trying to get him to open up and be remorseful for his actions. This just leads to issues that Brandon deems unneeded and lashes out at his aunt. Unfortunately, his uncle takes the brunt of Brandon’s rage.
2 Similar: Other Heroes
Like any good superhero movie, there has to be a connected universe. In a clever mid-credit scene, the lovable Michael Rooker is playing an Alex Jones-style conspiracy theorist following the rise of the superhumans. He details most of Brightburn’s nefarious actions, but what he adds falls right in line with comics. He introduces a man in the South China Sea who is destroying ships and a witch who is tying up men with a rope, making them confess their sins before ripping off their heads.
These are references to Aquaman and Wonder Woman-type heroes and they help to build the “Brightburn Universe” if they decide to go down that road. We also get a fun nod to James Gunn’s Super, with a picture of Rainn Wilson’s character from that film hidden in the corner.
1 Different: Obviously The Murder
Well, like the title suggests, this one is about the murders. Superman, other than in alternate realities and one bad movie, hasn’t really ever killed. That’s not his M.O, but Brandon is a true psychopath. Murdering or maiming everyone who gets in his way, even his own family. Brandon shows no remorse for his actions, and as the movie progresses, he gets more and more violent.
Going from attacking Kaitlyn’s mom to even his own parents. The more violent Brandon gets, the more gruesome and personal his attacks become. During the end credits, we see him destroy entire buildings and set fire to camping areas. If the series continues, it will be only a matter of time until he is attacking on a global scale.