Movies are great escapes from the real world, we can enjoy moments that are impossible, and visit characters that are otherworldly.
The source of those memes
If you have been on social media even just a little bit in the last few weeks then you probably have seen at least one of the many Bird Box memes floating around. I made it longer than I expected before firing up my long dormant Netflix account and queuing up Bird Box. Part of the reason I went ahead and watched Bird Box is due to those very memes floating around - some are quite hilarious and actually made me more interested in the movie. Prior to the memes, I was not interested in this movie at all - the trailer did nothing to get me interested. While Bird Box has suspense in a rear naked choke, the movie failed to use compelling story points to complete its course of action.
The first problem with Bird Box is, well, the method of story telling used. The idea is simple, tell the story in two sequentially laid out, but different, sequences. You may recognize this style of storytelling from similar movies such as I Am Legend which starred Will Smith as the alleged last man on Earth.
Where Bird Box becomes its own worst enemy for using this storytelling angle is literally the first scene. Sandra Bullock, playing the role of Malorie, is shown talking to two children - a boy and a girl - which are about the same age. The way this scene plays out is awesome, there is tension, there is fear, there is not knowing what is going on. There are spoilers for the rest of the movie.
Where to begin
I am not a fan of spoilers in movies, even if the movie does it in the first scene, so I will focus on one portion of the Bird Box. The flashbacks, if you will.
This is where the movie shines as far as I am concerned. There are many characters that seem to be big players but just fizzle out and we know their fate thanks to the “current time” scenes splintered throughout the movie. If I was to focus on the other half of Bird Box this would be a rather shallow review and quite boring.
Inspiration for these types of movies comes from many places. One character named Charlie, the grocery store employee in the movie, offers up just a few of the public domain options that movies like Bird Box can draw from. I would like to point out two others, one being mentioned already in I Am Legend. The other is The Happening starring Mark Wahlberg. It is quite clear that after watching Bird Box that these two movies were an inspiration - right down to the ending so to speak.
If you have much understanding about either, or better yet both, of those films then you already know how Bird Box is going to play out. We just get more build up with the flash backs here than we did with I Am Legend and we get a more intense version of the idea of The Happening.
Bird Box falls somewhere between how good I Am Legend was and how bad The Happening fared. It is hard to quantify the exact placement of Bird Box but I would put it slightly closer to Mark Wahlberg’s attempt at a suspense movie on the quality scale. While Sandra Bullock is awesome, she could not save Bird Box from being more “meh”.
Malorie is a shut in artist that paints and enjoys her sheltered life. Her sister, Jess, makes sure there is food available, keeps family up to date on Malorie, who is pregnant by a missing partner, and generally looks out for her sister. Life is good for Malorie even though it is about to change with the coming baby.
Jess brings up the scary situation in Europe and Russia, which Malorie could not care less about, when picking up Malorie for a routine check up with the doctor. Malorie turns off the volume of the television set just as the newscast is showing the events coming to Anchorage Alaska. Just after turning off the TV, Malorie offhandedly states “it is over there” in a dismissive manner. Ah, foreshadowing at its weakest.
As Malorie and Jess are leaving the hospital they see a lady that is bashing her head into the window - exhibiting traits of the scary events shown on Malorie’s TV earlier. They decide to run and attempt to get out of the city, anywhere else, before it gets too bad.
As Jess is driving, doing her best to get away from whatever “it” is, she begins showing signs of the change. They wreck and get out of the vehicle but Jess decides to step into oncoming traffic in front of a large truck, ending her life in a rather graphic manner.
This leaves Malorie to fend for herself and her baby which, as luck would have it, brings her near a home where some people are hoarding up. A lady, we find out later is the wife of one of the homes occupants, comes to Malories aid only to succumb to the unseen force which entices her to get into a burning car just before it explodes.
This effectively sets up the unseen force as a power that is impossibly for the survivors to fight. Unless they don’t look at it. That is where all the memes come from, the survivors cannot look at the creatures or they will succumb and kill themselves.
Bird Box Trailer
We get an interesting character interaction in the survivors that end up in the home. The home owner, Greg, is being sued by his neighbor, another survivor in the home now, over a permit request to the city to build what is only referred to as a “glass monstrosity”. Other characters that show up are Machine Gun Kelly as a character, a police academy cadet (she hooks up with MGK), Charlie from the supermarket (great guy, does a lot for the team), a pregant woman, a few others that I cannot really explain without spoiling their scenes so I won’t bother.
Charlie is the character that brings up the many sources that Bird Box obviously pulled inspiration from. He mentions ancient civilizations on up to Vikings and the like. They all have stories of events where something otherworldly comes upon the Earth - demons for instance - but the stories all end the same. Less humans populating the planet when the events end. Charlie believes that this is what is happening to them right now - judgement day, but without Terminators or a super computer.
Charlie is also the savior or the group so to speak. Remember, he works at a super market. Where food is kept. This is a key point to how the survivors are able to make it as long as they do. Good ole Charlie, what a guy.
Here is where my coverage of the story ends. From here on out, it gets a little hard to not spoil the movie, any more than the movie spoils itself anyhow. Instead, lets discuss some other points.
Bird Box has good pacing. There are very few slow moments that have you wanting to hit fast forward. Other than the earlier scenes setting up Bullock’s character as an introvert, things are kept at a steady pace with a few action scenes to wake anyone up that might nod off.
This movie is also its own enemy. 9/10 of the characters see their storylines ruined before we even get to know their names. That is a shame because there is so much that could have been done with many of them - some that just disappear with no explanation of their fate. We get plenty of “current time” scenes to make up for it though - effectively telling us that those characters didn’t matter in the first place. So, why waste even putting them in the movie?
The studio behind Bird Box did keep the tenseness level quite high and for that, they get an “A” for effort and execution. I just wish they would have edited things a little differently so that spoilers would not have been so obvious.
Had they gone with a sequential order, or less “current” scenes interspersed then Bird Box probably would receive better reviews. As it stands, they ruined their own chance at success. I am going to wait for the fan edit that puts the scenes into order and see how that goes and maybe review that version, if it ever materializes.
Had they edited Bird Box to have less jumping back and forth with scenes it might have been better. As it is, we have a variation on the whole Final Destination idea - we know who is going to die, we just don’t know how or when. That kind of bums out much of the suspense we are supposed to feel here.