MINOR SPOILERS FOR BIRD BOX AHEAD!
Every once in a while, the stars will align so two things will happen in my life at once: I’ll remember the world’s general movie recommendation, and I’ll have a lack of other things to watch. This is how I came to Bird Box this weekend, a movie recommended by many online personalities I watch. While not one to usually take people’s movie recommendations, I was malleable and decided, “What have I got to lose?” So the question then, is it as great as everyone says? Well, let’s discuss that. Of course, remember as always that this is just my opinion, and it’s just an opinion. Also, please excuse the vagueness in some of these points, as it is one of those movies where it’s hard to say anything without spoiling elements.
Bird Box focuses on the character of Malorie in a time split story between the present and 5 years ago. In the past segments, a pregnant Malorie and a group of people attempt to work out survival in a world ravaged by creatures who cause people to commit suicide when they’re looked at. Meanwhile, in the present, Malorie and two children travel down river blindfolded in the hopes of arriving at a compound where they can be protected and continue to survive. Of course, trials, death, and despair await Malorie at every turn, as survival in a world you can’t navigate by sight isn’t so easy.
- The story itself is thrilling and keeps you on the edge of your seat
Although there are lots of elements of predictability in the narrative (which is discussed further down below), somehow the story still manages to stay thrilling. I think much of this has to do with the pacing. When bad things happen in this story, it is instantaneous and quick. Thus, at any moment, things can (and do) go downhill. In turn, this gives the narrative this overwhelming sense of dread throughout that really keeps you on your toes. There is also the right amount of close calls and red herring scares that helps keep this tension and never allows you to get too calm either during quieter moments. In the end, even if you can predict everything that’s going to happen, it lives up to the thriller genre of keeping that right blend of tension and calmness that makes the journey exhilarating.
- The “creatures” are ambiguous and this works in the logic’s favor
When it comes to lots of post-apocalyptic stories involving the supernatural, there is often the tendency to provide too many answers. Unfortunately for many who do this, the answers hurt the story’s logic more than it helps. Things don’t add up, or things are dumb, or any other number of problems gets highlighted by the answers. This is not to mention the problem of underwhelming monster designs that just look silly. Bird Box, however, steers clear of all of this. The creatures for most of the movie are just ominous shadows and wind, creating that sense of terror of the unknown. The characters also don’t magically become super geniuses either and reveal all the creatures’ mechanics. Things are purposely left vague, and this vagueness helps cover up any of the dumb inconsistencies that might otherwise exist. Thus, the creatures are allowed to be the scary, all powerful entities they need to be, and the consumer doesn’t have to spend all their time thinking about how dumb the creatures are.
- Too many tropes and too much ripping off from other films makes it really predictable
Pick any post-apocalyptic movie involving monsters. Assuming you’ve watched your choice, you’ve seen Bird Box. Every single character in this movie is basically a checkmark on the list of post-apocalyptic character archetypes. Almost every single scenario is something you’ve seen a billion times in these movies as well. Even the movie’s main pull, the blindfold aspect of having to navigate the world, barely has the impact that it should and is relatively underplayed. Overall, if I were to describe this movie, it is a mash-up of A Quiet Place and The Happening. You only need to see one of those to basically get what’s going to happen in this movie. It is trope filled, predictable, and at the end of the day not very novel in its presentation. Sadly, this comes with all the problems you expect regarding lack of ability to attach to characters and so forth. Sadly, any element of originality is largely ignored, leaving a sort of dissatisfied feeling at the end.
- A lot of character choices are stupid and clearly for the sake of plot and theme
This is an aspect I can’t go into much detail on due to the risk of spoilers. Suffice it to say, this is one of those stories where characters will ignore extremely obvious, smarter choices for the sake of making the plot more thrilling. Even worse, in one instance one of the characters even proposes close to the smarter choice, only for everyone to reject on some dumb moral high ground. Towards the end of the movie, there are also issues that the time-skip creates. For example, Malorie calls the two kids with her “boy” and “girl,” but for some reason for four years no one ever confronted her for not naming them. While there are thematic reasons that fit her character in the movie, the time-skip makes the issue seem borderline unrealistic and starts to fray the suspension of disbelief in the narrative. I wish I could say these stupid character decisions were ignorable, but they really do stick out like a sore thumb.
All in all, I would say Bird Box is okay. As I mentioned, the overall journey is pretty enjoyable. The story is thrilling and scary in the good way, and at least for me I was very invested. Although there are predictable elements, there is enough variation in the “how” and “when” aspects to keep the cons at bay. However, under no circumstances should you think too much about stuff after the movie ends, because in the retrospect all the flaws come out and smack you in the face. I’d give it a watch if you’re in a post-apocalyptic story mood, but certainly lower your expectations and don’t expect a masterpiece.