Be aware there are spoilers for Brightburn below.
Sometimes cinematic universes come from the most surprising places. Yes, Brightburn is technically a superhero movie and the superhero film is the 21st Century patron saint of cinematic universes, but Brightburn is also the kind of superhero movie where victims pluck shards of glass from their eyeballs and literally scrape their jaws off the floor in unflinching gory detail — so yeah, not your average comic book adaptation.
Well, there’s also the fact that the supe in question, you Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) stone-cold kills his own mother (Elizabeth Banks) after she tries to stop him by stabbing him with a piece of the alien hip he crash-landed in — much like Superman’s sole vulnerability to Kryptonite from his home planet, Brendan grew up never sick and never injured, only once getting cut on the metal from his space ship. But again, not your average superhero movie. Realizing what his mom is up to, Brandon stop her and flies her up, up, up and away, before letting go and watching her plummet to her own death.
“If this was going to be the anti-superhero movie, it would have to crush your hope and kick you in the teeth when you didn’t expect it, director David Yarovesky explained about the film’s bleak ending. “The hardest part was the tone because sometimes it got too funny and it didn’t feel like the movie, sometimes it got too bleak and it didn’t feel like the movie. The movie really is having fun with the bad guy.”
Which is what makes Brightburn‘s tag ending such a twisted thrill. After taking down an airplane the night he flew his mother into the sky, we see glimpses and teases of Brandon’s growing evil and further attempts to “take the world” in a series of footage and news snippets, each teasing his violent deeds. That’s when Brightburn really tips its hat to the possibilities of the future and the potential for a growing universe.
“The moment with Elizabeth [dying] was basically always in it, but everything that followed changed a thousand times,” Yarovsky explained about writing the ending. “How much do we want to show of the next steps? Through what lens do we want to learn it? There were all sorts of ways in. The best way was to just give a picture of the future and be a little more vague.”
The answer was The Big T, a conspiracy theorist played by Michael Rooker, who pops up in the credits ranting about the supervillain wreaking havoc on Brightburn, Kansas. But he doesn’t stop there, he also decries a half-man/half-sea creature terrorizing the seas and a powerful witch who chokes her victims with a rope that compels them to the tell the truth — clear references to Aquaman and Wonder Woman. The broadcast also has a picture of a figure resembling Crimson Bolt, the non-superpowered “hero” played by Rainn Wilson in Super, the 2010 dark comedy directed by Brightburn producer James Gunn.
Still, this is all like a tease of a tease of a larger superhero universe at this point, but that kind of world-building and forward-looking thinking was definitely a factor during production. Yarovesky says they wrote “tons” of alternate versions of those credits teases, including some that were a little more out there. “We talked about Caitlyn — it ends with her in a lab fastening a robot arm on her broken arm, and her just pissed off… We just bounced around ideas for hours and some of them were ridiculous and some of them were cool, like that.”
Now that’s exciting — the little girl Brandon shattered, turning into some kind of Iron Man/Ash from Evil Dead battler of evil? Hell yeah. Obviously, that’s not the direction they decided to go in the end, but it’s an interesting promise of where their heads were at and how they were thinking of expanding the world of Brightburn in potential future films. Just don’t expect to hear much about it before the fact.
Asked about whether they wanted to dip into a bigger shared universe, Yarovesky deflected the question, talking about the extreme secrecy under which Brightburn was created. So secret, in fact, that he got married a few days after they wrapped filming and only a handful of people at his wedding even knew he was making the film at all. Yarovesky’s plan was always to debut Brightburn with a high-concept trailer that spoke for itself (namechecking Cloverfield as an inspiration on that front,) “If we were to expand the Brightburn universe in other installments and in other ways, we would probably be doing it in the exact same way,” he continued, “in total secrecy and then drop a cinematic trailer at some point that kind of teaches you what that new direction may be.”
So all told, yes, Brightburn‘s ending does tease the potential for an exciting superhero universe, and yes, that line of thinking was clearly on the filmmakers’ minds during production, but don’t expect to know the details of what that universe might look like until we see the trailer for it.
For more on Brightburn, be sure to listen to our full podcast with Yarovesky and check out the links below:
- ‘Brightburn’ Review: Superman’s Origin Story Gets a Thin But Entertaining Horror Makeover
- James Gunn and Elizabeth Banks on ‘Brightburn’ & the Ways Horror Can Be Cathartic
- The Witching Hour: Episode 41 – ‘Brightburn’ & Superhero Horror Movies We Want to See