I watched Bird Box piled on my sisters couch on New Year’s Day at about 3 a.m., so bear with me here.
There’s a lot of buzz going on about this movie, for better or worse. Some good buzz, some bad, some downright stupid (looking at you, Bird Box challenge.)
The memes and the hype are, admittedly, impressive. What’s more impressive is that this movie came out Dec. 21 and yet someone is still here reading this in January. Hey there, January reader. I hope you enjoy your time at my review.
Just for a quick recap, Netflix’s most popular original movie is “Bird Box,” a thriller based on a 2014 novel by Josh Malerman. The plot is a little thick to wrap your head around quick, but here’s a loose summary.
Basically, a mysterious force overtakes the United States, and anyone who sees it automatically commits suicide. The audience never catches even a glance at the mysterious phenomenon. However, the audience does have to witness all the people kill themselves in increasingly uncomfortable and gory manners.
After literally every adult character you meet for the first hour of the movie dies, the main character, Malorie (Sandra Bullock) ends up traveling blindfolded downstream with two five-year-old children in search of a safe haven for them all. And that’s the gist.
Something I love in movies is unanswered questions. I think it’s good for the viewer. Being vague leaves more up to interpretation, which is what art is about. Interpret it how you will, but don’t pull your hair out worrying about author’s intent. It doesn’t matter. What matters is what you get out of the experience.
So, what did I get out of the experience? Not a lot.
While I like to defend unanswered questions in movies, I recognize that there is a difference between unanswered questions and plot holes. One example is the unlikely survival of Tom and Malorie’s kids for five years when the vast majority of adults couldn’t even survive one. Why did the birds only work as a warning sign when it was convenient to the plot? How did those birds survive all those years anyway?
I think it’s fairly widely agreed upon that “Bird Box” did not live up to what it could have. What could have been an eye-opening (no pun intended) metaphor for a number of things, ultimately was lost between the lines.
In the movie, the only people who can look at the mysterious force without committing suicide shortly thereafter all have some sort of mental instability. These people will then go to great lengths to try and get others to look as well, which always leads to that person committing suicide. At first glance, maybe that’s excusable. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a dangerous and tired narrative.
I think the general public has had enough of demonizing or promoting fear of mentally ill people. Horror movie settings in psych wards are far too common. The idea of the deranged mental patient coming to hurt you is overused. With all the unanswered questions in this movie, the one answer that rang out loud and clear was that they were happy to perpetuate that narrative.
Overall, “Bird Box” was a more thrilling than average way to spend a few hours, but had little substance left after the movie ended.