BrightBurn may be the start of the James Gunn cinematic universe. We stress may, but there are some clues in the recently released horror-tinged superhero movie, which was produced by Gunn, that hint this movie could exist in a larger universe of characters that certain movie fans may already be familiar with. Whether or not that ever is explored in a future movie remains to be seen, but the seeds have seemingly been planted, that much is certain.
Warning: this article contains spoilers for Brightburn. Those who haven't seen the movie may want to turn back now. The end of David Yarovesky's Brightburn is rather dark, as our protagonist Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn), kills his mother (Elizabeth Banks) by dropping her thousands of feet to the Earth heartlessly, then proceeds to take out an entire airplane's worth of people, before moving on to wreak havoc all across the world. Essentially, we have a fully-formed evil version of Superman, which is the core premise that the filmmakers were working with.
As with many superhero movies, this one contains something of a post-credit stinger. Frequent James Gunn collaborator Michael Rooker appears on screen as a character named The Big T, who is positioned as a YouTube conspiracy theorist. As Rooker's character rants away, we see various other superpowered beings via footage from his channel that seems to be riffing on members of the Justice League. However, eagle-eyed viewers may have caught a glimpse of a character who looks an awful lot like a hero by the name of Crimson Bolt, aka the lead character in James Gunn's 2010 dark superhero movie James Gunn.
For those who didn't see Super, it centers on The Office star Rainn Wilson, who decides to unleash his own brand of vigilante justice, even though he's not-at-all equipped to do so. This was essentially James Gunn's first foray into the superhero world, long before Guardians of the Galaxy, and least when it comes to directing. He did write and co-star in the cult comedy The Specials which was ahead of it's time for 2000. This little stinger at the end of Brightburn strongly suggests that the events of Super took place in the same universe and that Crimson Bolt is somewhere out there dishing out uncomfortably violent justice.
So what does this all mean? David Yarovesky recently explained in an interview that the ending and the post-credit stinger went through many iterations before they settled on the one released in theaters. At one point, Caitlyn (Emmie Hunter), the girl that had her hand brutally broken by Brandon, was going to be fashioning herself a robot arm in a lab, which might have been cool, possibly setting her up as his foe in the future. Yarovesky had this to say.
"The moment with Elizabeth [dying] was basically always in it, but everything that followed changed a thousand times. 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."
Surely the hope on the studio's part is that this movie does well enough to proceed with a sequel. Brightburn, as of this writing, has grossed $17.3 million worldwide working from a reported $6 million budget. With any luck, maybe we'll see the return of Crimson Bolt in the sequel? Even if not, there's certainly a lot to possibly explore. This news was previously reported by Collider.