By Alex Goldberg PhD.
There are some things to like about Bird Box, the movie where weird aliens/monsters descend upon Earth and cause anyone who sees them to commit suicide. There are also some things that are truly dumb and silly and make you roll your eyes—just look at that picture! They’re rowing down a river blindfolded! All considered, though, it’s a typical end-of-the-world monster movie with a story that has fresh (well, sort of fresh) ideas but doesn’t really find a meaningful conclusion for them to go to.
So, the story revolves around Sandra Bullock—totally forgetting what her name in the movie is, which isn’t a great sign, for either the movie or my memory…oh yeah, Malorie—as she traverses a river with her two kids, Girl and Boy (not shitting you, these are the names Malorie has given the two children), blindfolded so that the movie’s monsters don’t look into her eyes and cause her to kill herself. The rest is told in flashbacks to explain how her and the two kids got there, beginning with her visit to the doctor, where things start to go haywire and people start offing themselves in the street.
That initial set up is also pretty bland, regurgitating things you’ve seen before in an end-of-the-world movie. There’s nothing particularly fresh about it, with things that might disturb you only if you’ve never seen any recent horror movie ever. People die and survivors are forced to fend for themselves. What a novel idea! One of them even believes in hokie-pokie mythological gods or something! What?
Anyway, there are two things that the movie does well, and that’s make it somewhat suspenseful and make Malorie’s journey atypical. The suspense is pretty straightforward, from hidden monsters lurking around trying to effectively kill people to our heroes being blindfoldedly navigating obstacles, some of which are just really too stupid to ever ever ever try (please, don’t take part in the Bird Box challenge and try driving a car blindfolded, there’s no way you’ll make three feet down the road). Malorie’s storyline is somewhat interesting in that from the beginning, she’s reluctantly pregnant.
She doesn’t really want kids or the responsibility that goes with them, making the fact that she’s now responsible for keeping two of them alive during a monster infestation even more strenuous. It’s an interesting idea and, to the detriment of the film, it isn’t explored in nearly the amount of depth that it needed to be. Most of the film focuses on Malorie right before she gives birth, making her relationship with her kids vague at best, showing you only one or two scenes of how she handles it from day-to-day. I wish I could get to know the kids, because they’re only really dangled like pieces of meat for the grinder, making their names Girl and Boy actually kind of fitting in the grand scheme of things.
I laughed when I found out that those were their names, as if the director couldn’t tell the audience in a more direct way, “THIS WOMAN DISLIKES CHILDREN,” but really, why not? There’s absolutely nothing about them that makes them special in the movie, except that they make stupid decisions at bad times because the movie needs suspense. Now if you think about it that way…the suspense is cheapened by the manipulative dangling of the kids. I guess it’s filmed well, though.
If you like Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich, you could do worse than Bird Box. It’s got good production and interesting ideas. I just didn’t get too into it, because every time a fresh idea would appear, it would get cut off at the bud. A better way to have written the script is to forget about the flashbacks and give the audience something more concrete to hold on to, like a tense, lifelike relationship between Malorie and her kids.
The backstory provided too much filler and not enough atmosphere, a glaring problem for an apocalyptic tale that requires a bit of world building to keep you intrigued. By the end, no matter what the final destination was for the characters, I didn’t really care all that much.
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