On Saturday, the world got its first look at Brightburn, an upcoming film from executive producer James Gunn. The film will mark the feature directorial debut of David Yarovetsky, and was written by Gunn’s brother Brian and cousin Mark.
Its IMDb synopsis goes a little something like this:
“What if a child from another world crash-landed on Earth, but instead of becoming a hero to mankind, he proved to be something far more sinister?”
As anyone can tell, the film is intended to be a riff on the Superman mythology. It proposes an alternate take on the classic superhero fable, where instead of becoming a savior he becomes an unstoppable monster.
As such, the trailer for Brightburn wears its Superman-inspired premise on its sleeve by evoking the most recent cinematic retelling of his origin, Man of Steel.
Check out the trailer, then let’s discuss:
An interesting thing happened when this trailer arrived, as a good chunk of fans of Man of Steel, and of its director Zack Snyder, took offense to the trailer’s homages to that film. And there were plenty of them. From the cinematography, to the music, to even the chosen font, it’s abundantly clear that the folks who created the trailer wanted you to think of Man of Steel, and of Snyder.
Heck, they even cribbed this line from the marketing for Watchmen– variations of which have been used in the marketing for several Snyder’s films:
So they worked double-time to make you think of Man of Steel, which some saw as some sort of plagiarism.
And it’s an understandable conundrum.
There’s very little precedent for this sort of thing. Usually, when a film directly models itself after another film, it’s in the form of a comedy. Parodies like Scary Movie, Hot Shots, and Naked Gun come to mind. General audiences aren’t necessarily used to films that try to conjure up direct ties to other movies unless they’re in the name of comedy or satire.
But there is one example of something like this; A film that goes out of its way to reference another movie, but not in an attempt to spoof or lampoon, but rather to lay the groundwork for a subversive spin on the material.
And that would be Drew Goddard’s Cabin In The Woods. Check out the trailer for that film, which put its own clever spin on Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead (even practically recreating the iconic cabin that Bruce Campbell’s Ash had several misadventures in):
These kinds of films are extremely rare; Movies you can tell stemmed from discussions about “What if this popular story had played out differently? What if those characters were placed in a tweaked scenario? Wouldn’t it be cool to explore this story from a different vantage point?” And they’re a gamble.
Cabin In The Woods didn’t exactly set the world on fire when it came out in 2012, which is probably the real reason why it’s unlikely to ever get a sequel. Despite stellar reviews, the film only earned $66.4M worldwide.
So it remains to be seen if people will take to Brightburn, but the trailer is receiving mainly favorable responses. With over 1.1 million views on YouTube, 18K “Likes” and only 738 “Dislikes,” people seem very curious about this spin on the Superman mythos.
On that subject, it should also be noted that Gunn and his team are unlikely to get an angry call from Snyder about the homages. After all, Gunn and Snyder made Dawn of The Dead together- a film that helped launch both of their careers. Gunn wrote it, and Snyder directed it.
Gunn was also one of the first people to publicly reach out to his old collaborator last year when news broke of his daughter’s untimely passing, and he’s also gone on record as saying he enjoyed Man of Steel. So it’s evident that none of this is a “jab” at Snyder, or an attempt to mock or ridicule his work.
Only time will tell if the marketing team’s decision to hit us in the face with MOS references helps or hurts Brightburn, or if general audiences will be receptive to something that’s so derivative of a beloved pop myth.
Brightburn, starring Elizabeth Banks and Matt Jones, arrives on May 24.
What did you think of the trailer? Be sure to let us know!