“Bird Box”: you don’t want to see this

Reviews

“Bird Box” is a horror thriller film that has incited a new wave of idiocratic self-inflicted challenges. This time, rather than eating scrumptious detergent pods or getting deep in one’s feelings by jumping out of moving vehicles, youngsters are running about blindfolded doing miscellaneous things because, “Wow I saw that in a movie, it would be so funny/quirky/epic/genius if I did that because that’s so silly and random and stupid, satirical irony amirite!”

Even people’s favorite B-list celebrities like Jake Paul are going about literally (for emphasis) running through traffic blindfolded–isn’t it great to be alive in a world where entertainment is just thriving!? So, I decided to take a look at this film and all the craze/controversy behind it.

“Bird Box” is directed by Susanne Bier and based on the 2014 post-apocalyptic novel by writer and singer Josh Malerman. The plot revolves around a mysterious force that is implied to embody one’s worst fear, and when witnessed by the naked eye, causes people to kill themselves or makes insane people evil for some reason. The viewer follows Sandra Bullock’s character, Malorie, through her life in the new and ever-so spooky world. The acting in this movie was a bit iffy. By default I was already disappointed that Jim from “The Office” wasn’t there; instead they got that washed-up crack addict from “The Blind Spot” because the movie is about blindness or whatever. A lot of people commended the film for phenomenal acting, but I found at best it was just subpar. Mid-way through the movie I did notice the acting was a lot more believable, but generally it wasn’t amazing.Malorie was written to be this very stereotypical raw, sassy, emo woman. And that’s fine, but the way it was put into action felt so forced. The writers made it a priority for the first half of the film to have Malorie say situationally inappropriate and rude comments to people for no reason. At the dawn of the end of the world, while Malorie and her sister are frantically trying to drive away, her sister tells her that she will stay with her, and then Malorie replies, “[But] I don’t have any clothes.” and that she can’t wear her sister’s clothes because “[She’s] not much of a chaps-and-boots gal.”

I’m well aware that they’re trying to lighten the narrative a bit and have the audience have a little exhale out the nose or what-not, but it is just a rather pointless piece of dialogue, and it just works to invalidate the seriousness of the situation.

The second issue I have with Malorie is just plainly the acting. For some reason that I don’t fully understand, Sandra Bullock is just inept at physical acting. When Malorie is at the hospital and sees a person bashing their skull against a glass panel repeatedly with a bloody indentation on their forehead, Malorie attempts to run away waddling and flailing her arms around as if she just had an uncomfortable confrontation with her high school sweetheart. And later on, when she is in the car with her sister, and their car flips, for a blissful ten seconds, Malorie is just waving around looking as if she’s open for someone to pass her a basketball or something.

Besides the physicality of her acting, I also just think in general Sandra Bullock over-acts a lot. For the post-apocalyptic part of the film, Sandra Bullock characterizes Malorie better as a recovering crack addict suffering from withdrawal than a survivalistic, strong, hesistantly-loving mother. Whenever she is interacting with her children or scolding them she speaks and looks at them as if she is a military sergeant giving orders, and when she yells it’s just so frantic. I understand she’s this unhinged, emotionless woman who will arc into a loving mother, but that still doesn’t justify her acting like a psycho with the kids. It also just doesn’t work on a logistical level, because the audience is under the impression there are all these crazy lunatic people who are looking for people to convert, and then Malorie is just screaming out in the open over both small and large things.

Lastly, Sandra Bullock just is challenging to believe in most roles because of her prevalence in film. It’s one of those things where you see her so much, in so many different roles, you kinda have this preconceived idea when you see her.

It’s the same reason that “La La Land” was a bit of a struggle acting-wise because trying to imagine Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone as struggling artists in California, it just takes a bit more imagining. For all the other characters, you can’t really complain as they were pretty minimally developed, and most were able to give somewhat convincing performances. Although, I will point out one instance that comes to mind when thinking of these performances, was when Tom (Malorie’s love interest) was talking to the group about his experience with the supernatural madness at his construction zone. And while he describes how his contractor and operator brutally kill themselves, he has this look as if he’s trying to act serious but at the same time he just came up with the most hilarious joke and is trying to keep cool. But besides that anomalistic instance, it was okay.

I think I could pardon the mediocre acting if the writing was a bit better, but nonetheless, it was pretty bad.The way things were written, it led me to believe most of the plot was reverse engineered from the idea that Malorie must have two kids and must have one deceased love interest. I think this is mainly because of how weak the early-apocalypse storyline is.

Each character introduced is partially developed and then killed off.

The parallel narrative style could’ve worked if it was done in a way that actually provided substance and had some eventual divergence that resulted in the viewer gaining relevant and important information and having some form of “aha” moment, but it doesn’t. It just deflates any form of tension. By providing the viewer with what happens in the future, it is already known that Malorie is going to be on her own somehow with two kids. So when people end up dying, it really isn’t very striking as it’s kind of expected by the viewer.

And it would make sense if they were trying to show some kind of contrast between pre and post-apocalyptic Malorie, but the weird thing is that her personality stays mostly the same besides some small deviations. When she’s with the kids, she shows a little concern about them, and nonetheless, she still has them named “Girl” and “Boy” until the very end of the movie and she doesn’t really nurture them. In the post-apocalyptic part of the story, she doesn’t have as many haha funny quips, but that’s more of a result of her being lonesome with two kids that she appears to just interact with on the bare minimum. There are also a lot of semantical flaws in the story and just things that make little to no sense. And usually it doesn’t really matter, but when everything is done so poorly, it gets easier to nitpick what was done wrong. And it’s fine to have fantastical/unrealistic elements in a movie when developing the universe it’s set in, but it just needs to be done in a more seamless way if it’s trying to evoke any sort of emotion in the viewer.

Firstly, the exponentiality of the epidemic/unknown entity seems pretty ridiculous, because no matter how fast it’s spreading, they would’ve at least had some sort of warning, especially because when they’re in the hospital and that woman is trying to kill herself against a window, a doctor says, “Code gray. Level one,” which implies that the doctors are aware of levels of this, and have somewhat of a code system implemented, so it only makes sense that Malorie would get some sort of state-wide warning. Or perhaps in this universe they just have incredibly poor infrastructure, who knows.

Secondly, it is never addressed why the monster/spirit/thing can’t go inside. For an entity that’s supposed to be so powerful and unstoppable, it sounds kinda absurd for its Achilles heel to be entering different spaces. Also, Malorie and her kids are somehow able to row down a river blindfolded? I understand how the current moves them down, but I feel like they’d still be pretty subject to veering off into random river banks unless Malorie just has the world’s finest internal gyroscope. And not to mention the literal bird-box. That box is being tossed around soaked in water, and somehow these birds are able to survive? And the birds themselves in the movie are meant to be similar to the birds that were used back in the mining days to warn miners of toxic gases like carbon monoxide, but there is just no preface at all to why birds are the only entity that is capable of predicting when the big scary spirit thing is around besides they just are. And it also is never explained why Malorie chooses to purchase those birds in the first place. And not even to mention that the birds appear to be exotic and from most likely a more tropical domain, meaning that they probably need pretty ideal conditions to thrive.

People with mental health issues are also made to be the villains in this movie, which is just  very random and a little bit offensive. It makes sense they need some sort of maleficent entity to drive the plot, but converting people with mental issues into an enemy seems unjust. And the ending of the movie is just atrocious: the blind live in utopia for some reason. It doesn’t explain either how the blind people are able to defend themselves from all the crazy people and obtain food to sustain the large populous they’ve developed. Although, for all its faults and flubs, “Bird Box” was able to do some things well. Conceptually, I think it was pretty good.

Having the plot revolve around an unseeable entity that is capable of transmuting itself into one’s deepest fears is pretty interesting. A lot of people complained that the movie wasn’t very good solely because there was no conclusion on what the monster was. But ending on an ambiguous note like that is much more creative than revealing that the monster was secretly Steve Buscemi or something. I also think they were really creative having characters adapt to the world they’re in. The use of the fishing line was a pretty intuitive catch and made it a bit more believable how Malorie was able to survive.

Lastly, “Bird Box” has also spawned a lot of conspiracy theories that are around the lines of “[group] is blind to [thing] and how [thing] is really spooky to acknowledge.” These theories are generally pretty stupid and are rather big stretches, but they exist because that’s what happens when anything is left abstract. Some of the more popular ones are, “It could be about racism,” “It could be about social media,” “It could be about why tea is better than coffee.” While all of these technically work, I’m rather doubtful that these theories were taken into consideration when writing the story. I think ultimately the conclusion that can be derived is one about the struggles of parenthood as the movie mainly focuses on Malorie and her children and the conclusion is that she finally names them, so there probably is some relation there. Nonetheless, “Bird Box” is just a basic horror thriller, and nothing more. It’s watchable, it’s fun, there’s a little bit of romance, but it isn’t going to be getting any awards (or maybe it will considering the literal trash fire that was “Bohemian Rhapsody” was able to win Best Drama), but I digress; it’s just a movie. If you want a movie that can stand on its own, watch “Green Book” or “Creed II” or “Space Jam,” but if you’re in need of some mindless media, “Bird Box” is for you.