The first international spin-off of the 2018 Sandra Bullock hit deepens the m
Plot: After a mysterious force decimates the world’s population, Sebastian must navigate his own survival journey through the desolate streets of Barcelona. As he forms uneasy alliances with other survivors and they try to escape the city, an unexpected and even more sinister threat grows.
Review: Released eight months after John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place, Bird Box became a hit for Netflix. In the five years since Susanne Bier’s film debuted, author Josh Malerman has penned a sequel novel while a film follow-up has been in development. The first of multiple global spin-offs, Bird Box Barcelona continues the tale of supernatural entities that force people to commit grisly suicide. Existing in the same post-apocalyptic universe as the Sandra Bullock-led hit film, Bird Box Barcelona manages to weave a distinct story while unveiling new details about the monstrous beings by taking the story in an unexpected direction.
While the original Bird Box shifted between the present day and five years earlier when the mass suicides began, Bird Box Barcelona moves between the first days of the invasion and the present day nine months later. The film centers on Sebastian (Mario Casas), a survivor living in Spain after spending time in Germany to build wind turbines. Sebastian survived similarly to Marjorie (Sandra Bullock) in the original film by wearing blindfolds and avoiding the outdoors. Fairly quickly, Barcelona sets itself apart from the original film thanks to the urban landscape, which offers more location variety throughout the film, many of which are controlled by different factions of survivors. In some ways, Bird Box Barcelona feels similar to The Walking Dead in that distinct groups have different motivations and levels of adeptness in the new world order.
Sebastian falls in line with a group that includes Octavio (Diego Calva), a young German girl named Sophia (Naila Schuberth), and British writer Claire (Georgina Campbell). The group band together to elude the monstrous aliens and a sect of maniacal cultists led by Padre Esteban (Leonardo Sbaraglia), who force non-believers to see the attacking entities. From the film’s start, Bird Box Barcelona takes a different approach to showing the monsters or hinting at where they are. Floating debris heralds the creatures’ arrival, which we never see directly on the screen. Instead, we see the change in the eyes of a character just before they brutally kill themselves. The death scenes are as grisly as in the original Bird Box and are far more frequent than in the prior movie. There are a few differences in what happens when someone dies that I will not divulge here lest I spoil the twist this movie has in store.
Mario Casas is a solid lead actor and plays Sebastian as a real person existing in the extraordinary circumstances of this story. However, choices in his development make it a challenge to relate to him like we did to Sandra Bullock in Bird Box. The shift from a female to a male protagonist alters the movie’s tone, but they both deal intensely with themes of parenthood. Bird Box Barcelona is available in both a subtitled and dubbed version on Netflix, but even the subtitled version features scenes spoken in English as well as Spanish and German. The international feel of the film also carries over into the production values, which make great use of Spanish locations.
The bulk of Bird Box Barcelona feels like a misdirect. The trailers make the film look like an international quasi-remake of Bird Box, but this movie is much different. Writer/directors Alex Pastor and Dave Pastor, known for their previous post-apocalyptic films The Last Days and Carriers, take the conceit of the Bird Box world and hone in on particular aspects they like. Specifically, Barcelona spends a lot of time focusing on characters similar to Tom Hollander’s Gary from the 2018 movie, distinguishing between those who see the creatures and survive and those who are driven to death. The divide between seers and everyone else propels the movie, including a scene in the final act that is included purely to set up future films in the Bird Box franchise. How survivors in America and Spain would communicate with each other must be explained in a future entry. Still, the global approach to telling these disconnected stories set in the same world poses a logistical challenge for connecting them together.
Bird Box Barcelona is not as good a film as the 2018 original, but I credit it for exploring a different perspective rather than retelling the same story. There is not as much of an investment in the supporting players in this film as compared to the first. While Mario Casas and Georgina Campbell are competent leads, Bird Box Barcelona often feels too focused on showing different methods of killing off characters rather than explaining how or why these events are happening. The human antagonists in the plot are not as fleshed out as they could have been, and the ending feels tacked on. Overall, fans of the original Bird Box will likely enjoy this expansion of the mythology behind the alien invaders. At the same time, everyone else will probably be content to wait to see what comes next.