2018’s Bird Box, adapted from the novel by Josh Malerman, still stands as one of Netflix’s most-streamed movies ever. The Sandra Bullock-led horror thriller featured a spectacularly tense atmosphere, by way of its The Happening meets A Quiet Place premise. Five years later, and Bird Box Barcelona enters a very different post-pandemic environment with a hell of a lot to prove. Though the first movie had its share of critics, it was a huge hit with audiences. This semi-sequel takes place practically a world away from Northern California. Shifting gears to the chaotic streets of Barcelona, writer/director duo David and Alex Pastor have free reign in the sandbox of terror built up by both the previous film and its book counterpart. Unfortunately, Bird Box Barcelona completely botches every bit of goodwill. The film emerges an ugly, misguided attempt to recapture lightning in a levitating bottle.
Going back and forth in time between present day and when the mysterious suicide-plague swept across the world on a global scale, Barcelona follows determined father Sebastian (Mario Casas) on a journey of survival with his adorable daughter, Anna (Alejandra Howard). Covering one’s eyes is essential to surviving the madness at hand. For much of the film, Sebastian sports a pair of goggles. A relatively surprising turn of events in the first act give hope for a decidedly different type of movie, but Barcelona does not take long to devolve into the same old same old. Find a new group of survivors, present a set of baddies hungry to open people’s eyes so they will see “eternity itself,” and build towards locating a larger group of survivors. Rinse and repeat.
Bird Box worked not just because of its fascinating concept or graphic suicides—its characters were richly drawn, making the audience actually care when the proverbial shit really hit the fan. Barcelona has not a single character to root for. Sebastian as the lead feels like a mistake. Admittedly, apart from being related to Bird Box, I was interested thanks to the presence of Babylon actor Diego Calva—here he plays Octavio, a former pizza delivery man, alongside his friend, Rafa (Patrick Cried), a dog trainer. Calva only shows up about halfway into the movie, as does a vital English-speaking character, Claire (Georgina Campbell). The addition of blindfolded dogs was fun for a minute, yet like much of the other new promises, has little payoff. Poor effects work is not much better than the characters.
Bird Box Barcelona ends in a bizarre attempt to leave room for a sequel. While the first film had an actual bird in a box relevant to the story, there is no reason Barcelona needed to be related, nor does it earn its title. At this point, we are absolutely flooded with apocalyptic content to the point it has become overkill. There needs to be a quality that will set a movie apart from countless imitators. The imagery is wildly inconsistent from what was previously established, almost to a laughable level that constantly mentions “souls.” Despite a great cast of Spanish-speaking actors and occasionally good cinematography, Bird Box Barcelona acts as a cheap spin-off that no one asked for. Rewatch the first movie instead!
Float away with Bird Box Barcelona when it debuts exclusively to Netflix on Friday, July 14th.