Film reviews and more since 2009

Bird Box Barcelona (2023) review

Dir. Álex Pastor and David Pastor

By: Steve Pulaski

Rating: ★½

In typical streaming era fashion, Netflix’s Bird Box was a cultural touchstone for the tail-end of 2018 and the start of 2019 before fading into almost complete obscurity thereafter. While predictable, it was no less disappointing that one of the streamer’s best original flicks came and went like most everything else on the platform.

The memories of that taut and engaging thriller are sure to remain long-gone even in the wake of its first (of several planned!) sequel in Bird Box Barcelona. It’s remarkable that even Netflix — the epitome of a quantity over quality streaming service — would do their one of their most watched films of all-time such a disservice with this lousy, bargain bin follow-up that drains all the intrigue out of a premise that was once rife with it.

This Spanish-set sequel opens with Sebastián (Mario Casas) and his daughter Anna (Alejandra Howard) celebrating her birthday in a roller-rink. Shortly into the celebration, they are jumped by a trio of blind criminals, their momentary bout of peace and tranquility ruined. Such is life in this apocalyptic hellscape.

Back on the streets, Sebastián informs a group that he is an engineer and can supply them with generators. The people take them to their compound where they’ve successfully been able to build a makeshift society with adequate food and medical care. If you remember, the world has been overtaken by a mysterious force that tantalizes you by communicating your deepest desires. This usually results in a person killing themselves shortly after “seeing” the force with their own eyes. Those trying to survive have no choice but to cover their eyes with cloth, masks, or whatever they can scrounge up in a panic.

Moreover, it seems this compound is all Sebastián and Anna can ask for during such harrowing times. However, the next morning, Sebastián hijacks a bus where many of its dwellers sleep and exposes everyone to the force. Sebastián is what this universe calls a “seer,” someone who believes the force is a divine blessing sent to heal humanity through death. The remainder of the film involves the nomadic duo of Sebastián and Anna traveling from one region to another, shepherding innocent people scrambling to survive to see what may ultimately cause their demise, or maybe reveal themselves to be a seer like Sebastián himself.

Co-writers/directors Àlex Pastor and David Pastor try to expand on the ideas of the first film by injecting religious motifs into the storyline, and exploring the cult the seers have formed around the creatures themselves. The Barcelona-set film shows the city gripped in panic seven months ago. During this sudden attack, Sebastián lost his wife and gazed upon the creatures. But he didn’t commit suicide. Instead, his own desires are fed by watching the spirits of those who die ascend to the heavens while believing the creatures themselves are a blessing on the human race as opposed to a sick, twisted curse.

The Pastor brothers certainly have ideas for how to advance this story and take it in alternate directions, but the trail they blaze with Bird Box Barcelona is unforgivably dull and boring. The film lifelessly plods along as Sebastián encounters one group after another, including one led by a British-Spaniard played by Georgina Campbell, and later, encounters a lost German girl (Naila Schuberth) in search of her mother. There’s a few other characters too, but most of them die before having a chance to get developed beyond a faceless caricature.

Bird Box Barcelona also doesn’t benefit from being the latest thriller to use grief as its primary theme. Nearly all of the characters in the film have lost a loved one, rendering them vulnerable to the forces that be with even the faintest possibility that they may be reunited should they choose to remove their blindfolds. The Pastor brothers are clearly captivated by the religious subtext that can lurk in the shadows of this lofty premise; they just don’t have a way of conveying it in a remotely compelling manner.

Absent a strong anchor like Sandra Bullock and instead burdened by the ugliest of grayscale visuals and a weak lead in Mario Casas, this is a completely lackluster sequel that will be watched and forgotten faster than a global Netflix reality TV show spinoff with a similar title.

NOTE: Bird Box Barcelona is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.

My review of Bird Box

Starring: Mario Casas, Alejandra Howard, Georgina Campbell, Naila Schuberth, and Diego Calva. Directed by: Álex Pastor and David Pastor.

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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