The sequel to the Netflix smash hit thriller Bird Box, Bird Box: Barcelona, is now streaming, but should you give it a watch?
It’s always hard to follow up a successful movie. It’s twice as hard if the sequel doesn’t have the same lead star. It’s exponentially harder if there are several years between films, as you risk losing the momentum of the original.
Add in a different language and you have the sequel to the 2018 Sandra Bullock-led blockbuster Bird Box, Bird Box: Barcelona, that arrives on the platform this weekend.
Now, full disclosure, I was not a fan of the original film. Though it was adapted from a book, it felt so derivative as a copy & paste combination of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, & a clip-show episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead. In late 2018, we, as a society, had slowly moved on from the deluge of post-apocalyptic content we got in the previous 15 years, but people were so excited to have Sandra Bullock back in their lives that they stomached Ocean’s Eight and Bird Box within months of each other. Not good, Bob.
My feelings on the original film notwithstanding, I did feel that a sequel would be coming along rather quickly to capitalize on the fact that the first film was the most-watched Netflix Original within the first 28 days of its release (still 3rd all-time as of writing this review).
However, after almost five years, one A Quiet Place sequel, & one hit debut season of HBO’s The Last of Us later, the Bird Box sequel has finally arrived to what felt like very weak marketing or fanfare. Maybe that is due to the Sandra Bullock-sized hole in which the new film can’t fulfill. Maybe it’s because they figure it already has a built-in demand and it will just work out like Money Heist: Korea or Fear the Walking Dead.
Whatever the reason, it will truly be a test for Netflix. Was the first film successful because people enjoyed a story about a reluctant mother blindly surviving a strange, suicide-inducing apocalypse or was it the star power of Sandra Bullock, who has a big fan base and a universal appeal?
Netflix seems to think the story blueprint will work again as many of the beats of the first film remain intact: same suicide-inducing apocalypse (in a different country), similar framework of adults protecting young children through the mayhem, the use of blind people as well-suited survivors, religious themes, & human conduits for the controlling beings.
However, the main difference between the first film and the sequel is how much faith, religious devotion, and cult-like mentalities play a much larger role in Barcelona.
The sequel follows the story of Sebastian (Mario Casas) and his daughter Anna (Alejandra Howard), who lost their matriarch during the chaos of the original outbreak. As they set forth in the desolate streets of Barcelona, they encounter and create uneasy alliances with fellow survivors until they eventually attempt a journey to a potential safe haven on the other end of the city. However, a sinister group of religious zealots in alignment with the unseen creatures will stop at nothing to make everyone in the world see what lies beyond the blindfolds.
The moral quandary that Sebastian sees himself in is probably the best part about this new film. He is constantly at odds between obeying his religious leader & believing in unification with his family versus what feels just & true in his interactions with fellow survivors. Sebastian’s grief is preyed upon and exploited until his eyes are truly opened (see what I did there) by the humanity around him.
This dilemma is done more effectively in the more successful Netflix original film, The Wonder, as a young girl is being investigated after she continues to survive despite starving herself for an incredibly long period of time. She claims to live off the Lord’s love and is perceived by local townsfolk as a religious miracle, but what lies beneath could be more sinister & deceptive than many in her village would believe.
We don’t get much in the way of deep introspection or commentary on the pitfalls of religious idolatry. We are more put in the hands of a deceiver (and, frankly, murderer) to eventually do the right thing by his fellow survivors, which makes for complicated storytelling and limited payoff. Many things about this story have little depth or complication and are merely ways of seeing more people taking their own lives in quick yet gruesome fashion. However, the use of a human element as the villain does create a more satisfying ending than its predecessor with a more even and less unintentionally comedic or ridiculous tone.
While the movie is watchable enough, the last scenes of the movie seem to think this universe has legs which I cannot see. We have seen many more accomplished examples in film & TV explore the societal reactions to post-apocalyptic scenarios and this is least engaging of them all. I’ve had enough leaves rustling and heads smashing through glass to see the end of this potential franchise.
Overall, Bird Box: Barcelona is an improvement upon the original with its moral quandaries, cleaner storyline, & solid performances. However, there are so many retread beats & staged tensions that it feels mostly redundant and unnecessary in the current post-pandemic, “The Last of Us” dominated landscape in which we find ourselves.
Watch Bird Box: Barcelona on Netflix If You Like
- Bird Box
- The Silence
- A Quiet Place
- The Happening
- The Wonder
- In the Tall Grass
MVP of Bird Box: Barcelona
Mario Casas as Sebastian
The acting performances were not the reason why this film may not work for some. In fact, many unfamiliar faces may break out from their roles. In particular, our lead Mario Casas does a great job in subtling displaying the mental battle that Sebastian has to endure as he has to make the toughest choice any grieving parent would have to make while questioning his own faith and religious leaders.
PLAY, PAUSE, OR STOP?
Fans of the original may embrace the film as it has a lot of similar beats & themes with a better storyline or they may reject it because it lacks the star power of Sandra Bullock and the depth to have its moral backbone truly pay off. Or maybe we just need a break from hearing the words “post-apocalyptic” until Season 2 of “The Last of Us”. You decide.