Warning: SPOILERS for Brightburn.
The newly released James Gunn produced movie Brightburn saves its biggest surprise for the end when it reveals it exists in the same universe as Gunn's Super. The film returns Gunn to his days of small budgets, practical effects, and bloody violence, which were the types of films he was making before joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. However, he only produces this evil Superman story with David Yarovesky directing Brightburn based on a script written by James' brothers Brian and Mark Gunn.
Closely riffing off of Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, the movie follows 12-year-old Brandon Breyer as he discovers his incredible powers and learns it is his mission to "take the world." He has all the classic abilities of Superman but uses them with no restraint and kills anyone who opposes him. His killing spree goes from the mother of the girl he likes at school and eventually his own parents. But, he doesn't stop there, as he crashes a plane onto his parent's property, killing everyone aboard the flight in the process and covering up his other murders. These are the final events of Brightburn, with Brandon thought of as the only survivor, until we learn that he doesn't stop.
The last few minutes of Brightburn focus on a variety of news clips that show Brandon Brightburn leveling buildings, burning his symbol into crop fields, and doing other terrible deeds. The film then introduces a conspiracy theorist newscaster played by Michael Rooker who is trying to convince his viewers that superpowered beings do exist and that Brightburn is just the latest in a long line of them. It is during this explanation that Brightburn forms a James Gunn shared universe as Crimson Bolt, the titular vigilante played by Rainn Wilson from Super, among those pictured as powered individuals on Earth.
The moment is quick and will only be caught by those who remember the red and yellow costume of Crimson Bolt, but forms an indisputable connection between Brightburn and Super. For those who didn't check out the 2010 superhero movie Gunn directed, Crimson Bolt is the heroic alter ego of Frank Darbo who turns to a life of stopping crime with a pipe wrench as his weapon of choice and no real powers. It has been nine years since Crimson Bolt has graced the big screen though, and Super is the lowest grossing movie Gunn has ever directed, so what could come from this tease?
For starters, this certainly isn't teasing that Crimson Bolt and Brightburn will fight, as Frank is no match for Brandon. Unless the former short order cook has dramatically increased his capabilities over the last decade, there is no conceivable way for them to face off convincingly. But, what if they could be on the verge of teaming up instead? Frank began being a hero to save his wife, but the brutality that he used could be enough to show that he could succumb to these dark urges for more selfish reasons. Brandon and Frank wouldn't even have to stop with just them, as there are more powered individuals featured by Rooker's character who could join them, essentially making them an evil Justice League.
As fascinating as it would be to see Gunn create a low budget supervillain shared universe, we may be getting ahead of ourselves with this hope. Brightburn only just opened up in theaters and is receiving mixed reviews to this point. The small budget, evil Superman angle, and Gunn's attachment look like it will be enough for it to have a semi-successful box office run, but then it will be up for a studio to move forward with plans for new movies to bring these characters together. After all, it could just be that Gunn wanted to include an Easter egg to his other superhero indie movie and has no intention of making this something greater. But, with his history with the MCU and knack for planting seeds for the future, we can only hope that Brightburn does turn into something bigger that could get Crimson Bolt back in action.