I've seen A Quiet Place, Night of the Living Dead, and The Happening. I know exactly how to talk about this movie.
A Callback to Other Classics
I understand that Bird Box is based on a book of the same name. Regardless of that, the final product of the film feels heavily influenced by this year’s A Quiet Place as well as George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Also, sprinkle in a little bit of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening for good measure. Whether or not this is a faithful adaptation of the novel, I honestly couldn’t tell you (because I haven’t read it). I can only speak for what I’ve seen in this movie. About half of the movie takes place in an abandoned home filled with a small group of people that are taking refuge from a dangerous and seemingly supernatural force outside trying to kill them. The other half is inter-spliced in with the rest is a post-apocalyptic future years after the initial chaos revolving around a small family that managed to stay alive and must remain without certain senses in order to survive the creatures that are constantly waiting to strike. The way that this entity kills its prey is by creating some sort of hypnotism on anyone who sees it and makes them so insane that they more often than not tend to kill themselves, except for the select few people that for some reason are entranced by the beings and they try to force everyone they can into also seeing the monsters so they may “know the truth.” Sounds like we have a few movies inside of one, don’t we? I’m sure that the book wasn’t written to be a rip-off of anything and it probably is completely original in its own right, but the 2018 movie comes across as Netflix’s cash-in on mainly A Quiet Place with the sensory deprivation aspect of its story, only with a slightly different spin. Instead of it being based on sound, it is actually more visual.
Even though the plot and several other aspects are tremendously familiar from other examples, there are some things that work about it. The acting all around is solid, especially from Sandra Bullock as Malorie, who is giving this performance 100% of her efforts. There are some suspenseful sequences scattered here and there that were cool to watch. The effects and cinematography are very well done for the most part, this was a good looking movie. Aside from its familiarity, my biggest problems reside in the editing and the writing.
Bird Box’s structure is probably one of the more frustrating things about it because it is constantly making sure that I don’t give a single solitary crap about anything happening with most of the characters since it spoils practically everyone’s fate within the first few minutes of the movie. It’s one of those movies that breaks the story up between two separate storylines. Both revolve around Sandra Bullock’s character, but one is centered on the initial first days of the epidemic and the second is years later when Bullock with her two children are traveling by river to find a new place for safety. It would be fine if the story was set in a linear fashion, but it’s not. We open with one of my most hated clichés, a suspense-driven opening scene only to cut to a black screen with the title card saying, “Five Years Earlier”. I hate that. Then it cuts back to just before the fatal event that leads to Bullock finally taking refuge in a house full of strangers that she doesn’t know, and every time the movie feels the need for an ‘action beat’ we cut back to five years later on Bullock and the kids fending off against psychos or trying to fight the water current to avoid drowning. Then cut back to five years earlier. Five years later. Five years earlier. Five years later. Five years ear- later. Earlier. Later. Back and forth and I don’t care about anything going on in the past since I know that everyone except Sandra Bullock is going to die while I can’t get into the suspense of anything going on with her character presently since it feels like shallow excuses to slip in tension briefly. The movie feels like the filmmakers have no faith in anyone’s attention span so instead of letting a story simply play out and let the tension build within the natural narrative, they have to interject the suspenseful scenes into the slower segments and it is aggravating.
I wanted to like these characters. I wanted to be left wondering who might make it out alive and who might not. I wanted to be riveted by the scarier moments, but this movie always seemed to be determined to sabotage itself instead of letting me have an enjoyable sit. This movie might as well have had the words ‘Spoiler Alert’ printed across the screen in the opening shot since from there we know that when it cuts backward, nothing matters anymore when we already saw exactly where it all is going to lead anyway.
The opening scene shows Bullock speaking with two children, cut back to five years prior with Bullock being pregnant and another woman in the midst of strangers residing inside the house who is also pregnant; I wonder what this means. There seems to be a romance between Bullock and Trevante Rhodes’ character in the past segments, yet he is not present within the future portions; gee, I haven’t a clue what could have happened to him. It’s annoying because had this movie been edited correctly, it could have been fine.
The writing isn’t necessarily bad, and if the narrative structure were fixed then this stuff probably wouldn’t have bothered me as much. Yet here we are. The characters end up doing some real stupid things for no reason other than they need to die or cause others to die. Whether they needlessly sacrifice themselves when the issue could have been easily resolved another way, or they make a decision that is obviously dumb and do it anyways.
Seeing these creatures is what causes people to kill themselves here, every character knows this for a fact fairly early on, yet when a certain person opens a window to the outside, there is someone is so drawn to the light from the window that I’m fairly certain they’re father was a moth. Stupid.
A crazy person is forcing themselves inside and there are three people barely keeping the door shut, a fourth man witnessing all of this could have run and shoved the intruder back out or helped slam the door closed, but instead rushes towards the crazed man and pushed them both outside. Another one bites the dust.
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A man is outside in the middle of gunfire with the creature worshipping maniacs, instead of not looking towards exactly where he knows one of those things are, he looks right at it. And boom goes the dynamite.
There are a lot of idiotic moments that also pull me out of caring about anyone here, most of everyone’s fate is their own fault. Also, the fact that there’s this relatively forced character arc for Sandra Bullock where she emotionally distances herself so much from her children that she named them ‘Boy’ and ‘Girl’ as though she is refusing to give them a true name… I’m sorry, but at that point, lady, you have technically named them.
Should You Watch It?
I can’t come up with much reason as to why anyone would really have any need to see Bird Box. It’s not the worst thing that I’ve seen this year or even on Netflix, but it has too many elements in it that can be seen executed in far superior ways. Such as the examples I referenced earlier with A Quiet Place or Night of the Living Dead. Even in terms of bad movies with similar features about an invisible force causing people to commit suicide, The Happening was more entertaining than this. Technically a much worse movie, but still has more of an entertainment value than Bird Box. Sandra Bullock performs at her best, John Malkovich is always amusing, and Trevante Rhodes was fairly charismatic. There are a couple of times where the movie can be somewhat suspenseful. But it wasn’t enough to carry the film with the amount of problems it has structurally. I personally say to skip this and continue your search for something else from the wide array available on Netflix.
© 2018 John Plocar
John Plocar (author) from Weatherford on January 02, 2019:
Thank you! I'm glad that you enjoyed my review! =D
Sarthak Awasthi on January 02, 2019:
Great job John. For me it's your best so far. Love it.