As a dark reimagining of Superman’s origin story, Brightburn doesn’t disappoint. From the requisite Superman references to nods to producer James Gunn’s other properties, here are some small details from Brightburn that you might have missed. Spoilers ahead.
Right from the start, the plot elements stolen straight from Superman are obvious. An alien baby crash lands on a farm in Kansas. Later, he can fly and has super strength and red eyes and heat vision. He even wears the blanket he was found in as a cape like some versions of the Man of Steel.
But if there’s a single visual most associated with Superman, it would almost undoubtedly be the cover to Action Comics #1: the first appearance of the Man of Steel. Before the superhero genre was crystallized as a concept, here was a man in a garish red and blue suit lifting a car over his head as terrified onlookers fled away from him.
Brightburn pays tribute to the visual in a surprisingly subtle way. After his uncle Noah finds out about his violent tendencies, Brandon begins tormenting the guy on a dark stretch of road.
Finally, Brandon lifts the car up into the air off-camera. The filmmakers don’t make it overly explicit, but it’s undeniably a reference to Action Comics although in the source material, the occupant in the car presumably didn’t smash his face in half on the steering wheel.
There’s one more major iconic moment from Superman history that Brightburn subverts: Superman saving a plane. It’s an endlessly repeated moment for the Man of Steel that appears again and again in nearly every visual adaptation he’s had to date. There’s good reason for that; it shows exactly the scale of problems that Superman is willing and able to handle. A plane hurtling towards the ground is a job for Superman.
Brightburn prefers to turn this symbolism on its head. The end of the film sees Brandon drop his adopted mother to the ground from high in the sky. Freed from the last remnants of his humanity, he turns to see an airplane hurtling through the air towards him. The scene cuts to a demolished airplane that’s destroyed the rest of the Breyer household, leaving Brandon the only obvious survivor. Keep watching the video to see more of the small details you missed in Brightburn!
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Man of Steal | 0:15
Crash course | 1:12
The Brightburn emblem | 1:59
The spread of red | 2:43
Dissections | 3:29
RookerTube | 4:06
A Super-verse | 4:38