“Bird Box Barcelona”: A Good Story With a Poor Execution
In an era where anything remotely successful earns a sequel, it came as little surprise to many when Netflix announced a follow-up to its hugely successful 2018 horror smash, “Bird Box.” Only that this is not strictly sequel-y. “Bird Box Barcelona” takes an unconventional anthology-style route, telling the same story from a different region’s perspective of characters.
And this is where it starts to win.
This shift from the traditional sequel formula is something I would recommend for future movies in the Bird Box franchise, if at all there’s going to be a continuation. I will urge the filmmakers to expand the “unseen horrors” experience to Africa, Asia and other regions. That the movie picks Barcelona, a city revered internationally for its vibrant culture and architecture, to be survival’s new frontier and shows us the extent of its ruins is another aspect of the movie I believe is not appreciated enough.
On the surface, the premise of “Bird Box Barcelona” is quite simple and keeps in line with its predecessor – mythical creatures roam the earth causing those who gaze upon them to abruptly end their lives. What’s left of humanity in Barcelona must adapt to life where outdoor sight is dangerous and protect their comrades from not only these creatures but its disciples seeking to bring others to the “light”.
But it’s not until the first act that you start to realize that this is nothing like the first “Bird Box” – in both good and bad ways.
In an unexpected twist that undoubtedly caught everyone off guard, the movie’s narrative adopts the form of what should ordinarily be an intriguing plot superior to the 2018 version, but it falters along the way owing to skin-deep character development and an overzealous pursuit of thematic elements. This, and the movie’s failure to finish its daring take, seriously hurts a movie with otherwise bright prospects.
By subtly hinting through numerous flashbacks and symbolic images that the mythological beings are some kind of angel, “Bird Box Barcelona” – which I regard as the optical cousin of “A Quiet Place”– keeps the viewer interested. But not for long. Curiosity gets the better of you and you start to feel an unease in your inability to see these creatures in their true form. This unease, I must admit, is precisely what the writers aimed for.
Through its rather solid themes, the movie does a great job explaining why the men running around, eyes-wide and forcing the will of the creatures on the hapless, are seemingly unaffected by suicidal thoughts. The dominant theme of the dangers of religion and blind faith is quite interesting and perhaps explains the aforementioned best. The audience, through the protagonist Sebastian (Mario Casas), is reminded of how human perspective is influenced by emotions and forces beyond our control: grief, anger, and most importantly, religion. In other words, we ultimately decide what we want to see.
Those who interpret these creatures as angels – such as Sebastian – see the shining light of the “saved” going up to heaven. It is no coincidence that it is only when Sebastian starts questioning this belief that the “shining light” of his victims stop appearing.
Directors Alex and David Pastor equally do a fantastic job at showcasing how although trust is hard to come by in the Bird Box universe, it can never truly be void of human nature. Or how else can one explain how in a world where the eyes are the greatest liability and blind men rule, one man keeps getting accepted into one survival community after another despite glaring signals of the risks of doing so?
But then that’s just half of the gist because the other half of the story is that “Bird Box Barcelona” was surprisingly uninteresting.
The fact that a psychological thriller with such a solid message manages to be so unmoving is what angers me. It seems the Pastor brothers were hell-bent on delivering their message at the expense of character development. As a protagonist, Sebastian’s motives are quite understandable. But in the end, his character holds no more water than a basket. The pitiful attempt at a redemption arc was nothing but a flat line; at some point, it almost felt like the movie was begging us to sympathize with him. The supporting characters were no better, with much existing just to satisfy the movie’s thirst for gory deaths. Many may be reluctant to say it, but “Bird Box Barcelona” suffers from Sandra Bullock’s absence. Her vibrant character was the beating heart of the original movie which Mario Casas, while being one of the finest Spanish actors there is, sadly couldn’t replicate.
So, what starts out as an innovative and unique idea grind into a boring and predictable 112-minute bloodbath that leaves a rather bland taste. For newcomers to the Bird Box franchise, this movie would be a solid 4-star. However, for audiences – like me – revisiting this realm, “Bird Box Barcelona” is a miss considering the bar set by its 2018 predecessor.
Release date: July 14, 2023
Runtime: 1 hour, 52 minutes
Streaming Service: Netflix
Directors: Alex and David Pastor
Cast: Mario Casas, Georgina Campbell, Diego Calva, Nalia Schuberth, Alejandra Howard, Patrick Criado, Gonzalo de Castro, and Leonardo Sbaraglia