elizabeth banks

James Gunn’s Brightburn Trailer Reimagines Superman’s Origin Story As a Horror Film

This ain't your parents' Smallville.
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A married couple living on a rural farm in middle America pray for a baby. Suddenly, an interstellar object crash lands in their backyard, bringing with it a baby not of this earth. As the baby grows into a boy, he begins to display superhuman abilities, and his parents struggle to keep their child safe and his origins a secret.

We’re all familiar with the iconic origin story of Superman, but what if something went horribly wrong? What if Kal-El was not a force for truth, justice, and the American way, but a coldblooded, super-powered villain? That’s the question that Brightburn asks in its moody trailer.

The film, produced by James Gunn, is a subversion of the classic superhero origin story. Directed by David Yarovesky (The Hive) and written by Gunn’s brother Brian and cousin Mark Gunn, Brightburn stars Elizabeth Banks and David Denman (The Office) as a married couple who adopt an alien orphan who starts to display villainous leanings.

This isn’t the first time James Gunn has played with subverting the superhero genre. His 2010 dark comedy Super followed Rainn Wilson as a disgruntled fry cook who turns into a violent vigilante after his wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him. And of course there’s his sly take on heroes in the Guardians of the Galaxy films.

Brightburn was due to be announced at San Diego Comic Con, but was sidelined after a scandal erupted over James Gunn’s old offensive tweets. Disney subsequently fired Gunn from GOTG Vol. 3, although they will allegedly be using his script for the film.

In the meantime, Gunn has bounced back by taking his talents to the DCEU as the new director of Suicide Squad 2. Despite the drama with Disney, Gunn remains in demand as a director and producer (while Gunn’s tweets were offensive and distasteful, he did issue a public apology).

As superhero films continue to glut the market, studios are looking for a way to separate their films from the pack. Genre-hopping is a smart way to reinvent a superhero story, as we’ve seen with the 2012 sci-fi thriller Chronicle, the gritty and paranoid Midnight Special and the upcoming horror-tinged Glass from M. Night Shyamalan. We’ve also seen comic book movies cross over to R ratings, with entries like Deadpool and Logan.

We’ll have to wait until next spring to see how Brightburn is received, but the trailer is promising. What do you think of the trailer? Will you be seeing Brightburn?

(via Hollywood Reporter, image: Sony)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.