Chronicle Vs. Brightburn: Which Is The Better Alternative Superhero Film?
Can we even consider these "superhero" films?
So, let’s just say that you got off the Marvel hype train, and you don’t care one whit about James Gunn’s version of the DC Universe or the new Superman. That said, you still like superheroes and don’t want to give up on them. What do you do? Well, I’ll tell you what you do. You ignore the MCU and the DCU (All cinematic universes for that matter!), and just watch some “alternative” superhero movies. I’m talking about superhero films that aren’t even connected to any major brands, and are totally original projects.
Well, if you’re into that sort of thing, then I have two great movies for you, and they're 2012’s Chronicle, and 2019’s Brightburn. In fact, I love both movies so much that I’m going to do a very Marvel/DC-esque thing and pit them against each other. That’s right, forget Batman v Superman (No, really. Forget it. Or at least try). This is all about Chronicle Vs. Brightburn, baby, and which is the better alternative superhero film.
Oh, and spoilers up ahead if you haven’t seen these two awesome movies.
Every movie, alternative or not, still needs a great plot. So, which alternative superhero movie has the better one?
Three teenage boys find a weird substance and acquire superpowers. At first, the powers are really cool, but one of the boys, named Andrew (Dane DeHaan), starts to let the dark side out, and things go awry pretty quickly. Did I mention it’s a found footage movie, so it’s all told from the perspective of a formerly bullied teenager? That’s actually really important since it adds a great deal to the plot.
A married couple (played by Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) can’t get pregnant, and they hope for a baby. Well, they get one, alright, and it’s an alien, just like Superman. But, what if Superman was evil rather than good? That’s the story of Brightburn. Evil Superman. As a kid! And it’s fun! In a gruesome sort of way.
Plot Winner - Chronicle
While I do like the simple premise of Brightburn, I find the overall dynamic of a bullied kid, who now has superpowers, documenting his descent into darkness to be a bit more compelling. So, Chronicle wins.
Every superhero movie needs a, erm, superhero. So, which alternative superhero film has the better one?
Chronicle’s Main Character
Chronicle is kind of odd since it can’t really settle on who the main character is. You have the ostracized and bullied Andrew (played by The Amazing Spider-Man 2’s Dane DeHaan), who seems to have the biggest arc in the movie, from being picked on to picking on other people. But then, you have his cousin, Matt (Alex Russell), who acts as sort of a counter to Andrew’s heel turn, so it’s kind of confusing picking a single main character in this film.
Brightburn’s Main Character
Brightburn is kind of interesting, too, since you could argue that the main character is not Brandon Breyer (played by Jackson A. Dunn), but rather, his parents, namely his mother, Tori (Elizabeth Banks). But, for the sake of this argument, let’s just say that the little boy in this movie is the main character. He’s a pretty terrifying villain, and it’s almost a misnomer to call him a superhero, since he’s definitely not one. He’s a supervillain! And a damn good one at that.
The Main Character Winner - Brightburn
Since neither film seemingly wants to say THIS IS YOUR PROTAGONIST, I’m going to go with Brightburn in this category, for the sheer fact that whatever scene Brandon Breyer is in, he’s horrifying; absolutely horrifying.
Every superhero movie needs supporting characters. So, which supporting characters make for a better superhero movie?
Chronicle’s Supporting Characters
As I recently just mentioned, Chronicle has a bit of a problem determining who exactly is the main character. Is it Andrew or Matt? But, one thing that is certain is that there is another character in the film who is definitely a supporting character, and that’s Steve (played by Creed III’s director and star, Michael B. Jordan).
Steve is every bit as cool and popular as you would think he would be, and even cooler when he acquires superpowers. In fact, he’s such a potent character, that when he dies in a tempestuous storm created by Andrew, it hits all that much harder. In every way, Steve was the best part about this entire movie.
Brightburn’s Supporting Characters
Okay, so as I mentioned earlier, you could definitely make a case for the kid being a supporting character in this movie. But, for the sake of this competition, I’m going to focus on the “superhero” as the main character, and the parents as being the supporting characters. And, they’re really good! The father, Kyle is the first to suspect that that boy ain’t right. But, it’s tragic when his mother, Tori, finally comes to that realization, because by then, it’s way too late.
Supporting Characters Winner - Chronicle
While I especially love Elizabeth Banks’s performance in Brightburn, you just can’t beat Michael B. Jordan. It’s simply impossible.
How The Movie Stands Out From Other Superhero Movies
Since neither film is directly a Marvel or DC superhero film, it needs something special to stand out. So, which film has that better something special?
How Chronicle Stands Out From Other Superhero Movies
Chronicle’s “something special” is that it’s a found-footage superhero film, which makes it very different from the CG-heavy superhero films that you normally see today. Yes, at times, like most found footage movies, the concept feels a little forced, but overall, it still stands out, even today.
How Brightburn Stands Out From Other Superhero Movies
I love what-if scenarios, and Brightburn has one of the greatest ones that I can think of: What if Superman came down to Earth, but he was a murderer? The idea is familiar, but also foreign, and it helps that the film stayed as close to Superman’s farmland origin as possible, since it feels uncomfortable at times, as the story zags when you’re expecting it to zig. Over and over again.
How The Movie Stands Out From Other Superhero Movies Winner - Brightburn
Though the found footage aspect in Chronicle is definitely unique for the superhero genre, it tended to feel a bit gimmicky at times, whereas I’m pretty sure people will still think Brightburn’s idea is cool years from now. So, Brightburn wins this one.
Superhero films have pretty much impacted all of cinema for well over a decade now. So, out of the two alternative superhero films, which one had the bigger impact?
Did Chronicle even have an impact? It’s hard to say. There’s been rumors of a sequel forever (with the first film’s director, Josh Trank, even admitting that he’s been trying to delay it), but we haven’t seen superhero found footage movies, or anything else like it, since the first movie came out. Honestly, you might have even forgotten that this movie existed until I brought it up for this article. Be honest…
Brightburn’s impact is still too early to call since it came out relatively recently, in 2019, which is forever ago in superhero terms, but not as forever ago as 2012. Still, with James Gunn heading up DC projects, and the movie once showing unexpected success on Netflix, I would say there’s probably more of a chance that we’ll see a Brightburn follow-up than a Chronicle follow-up. Plus, we see plenty of villainous characters as superheroes these days, such as 2019’s Joker, as well the recent Black Adam, so, there’s that.
Impact Winner - Brightburn
This may be a bit unfair, because Brightburn is fresher in my mind than Chronicle, but Chronicle also had years to have a sequel, and we haven’t seen one yet. Plus, the whole concept of a “bad” superhero will likely be done again in the future, and Brightburn may be looked upon as an inspiration, so Brightburn wins this category.
Overall Winner - Brightburn
As much as I dug Chronicle, I feel like I dug Brightburn even more when it came to alternative superhero movies. But, what do you think? For more superhero (or rather, antihero) news, make sure to swing by here often.
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Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.