Netflix’s latest attempt at capturing the masses was a success: another front-page original movie that took over social media for the entire week of its release. It was the biggest opening release for a Netflix Original film ever. It collected the views and it got our attention, but does it hold up to scrutiny? After some heated debate, two of us here at 42Fifty sat down to give our take on the movie, and review it in depth.
Point: ‘Bird Box’ is dope!
My eyes were bulging the entire time I was watching the Netflix original “Bird Box.” This had been one of the top trending films on Netflix for a couple of weeks, and I see exactly why. If you haven’t already seen it, it’ll leave you sitting on the edge of your seat, eager to continue watching for what’s next. It contains intense turning points and scenes full of events that will leave the hairs on the back of your neck standing up. The movie has a very twisted plot and will keep you entertained the entire time.
“Bird Box” uses an interesting format, going back and forth between scenes that are occurring at different times in the movie. The beginning of the movie shows the main character, Malorie, on a boat with two children going down a very rough river. Not only does this get you confused on how they got there, but you also notice that they are all wearing blindfolds. This makes you you wonder, what type of movie am I about to watch? This is a great way to open the film though simply because of how jarring the imagery is. It leaves the viewer feeling eager to see how these characters ended up in this situation. The director definitely did a good job at the beginning of foreshadowing the events that eventually take place later on.
Throughout the movie you figure out why the characters are wearing blindfolds, alongside anyone else. The movie mainly takes place in the home of a man named Greg. The characters are trapped in the house in an attempt to avoid the conflict, or the “figures” that possess you and cause you to harm yourself if you accidentally look at them. It was very interesting to see how these characters reacted to the events that started occurring, which sent a strong message to the viewer on the extreme measures humans will take for their lives.
Not to mention, the main character, Malorie, is pregnant, as well as another woman named Olympia, who is also staying at Greg’s house. Both Malorie and Olympia’s waters broke simultaneously, both of them going into labor at the same time. Eventually, they both gave birth to their children after being in labor for hours on end.
Later that night, they heard a knocking on Greg’s front door. It happened to be a man crying for help. Of course, they let him in, hoping he wasn’t in any way a threat. Something felt off and the director made it very obvious that something was sketchy about the man, but as anticipated, the characters did not catch along. He ended up staying at Greg’s with everyone else and had somehow eventually settled in. Until one night, he started pulling out a bunch of sketches of these black, demon looking figures. He then pulls out a knife and proceeds to kill Cheryl, an old woman who was also living in the house. Then Olympia, the other woman who had just given birth, leaving a puddle of blood. He then goes back downstairs and stabs Douglas, Greg’s close friend who was cooped up in his home as well. He stabbed him numerous times. The scene was so graphic that my toes were curling, and seeing the knife go inside of Douglas was too surreal. Shortly after, Tom, Malories boyfriend, comes downstairs and shoots him with the shotgun that Douglas had been carrying throughout the movie. This finally ends the terror in the house, but only for those given moments.
Tom and Malorie had been calling on the Walkie Talkie for years, desperately trying to get a response from someone. Finally, they received a message on the radio telling them directions to a safe community. Malorie and Tom set out to this community, once again down the rough river rapids. I couldn’t imagine having to go down these river rapids in an inflatable raft, let alone with no experience.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, the movie just kept taking turns bigger than a semi-truck would take! All of the scenes I mentioned before were so original and breathtaking. The pacing, directing, and acting were all top notch, providing an unforgettable viewing experience. I had no idea where the plot would go next!
At the end of the day, this is something I would greatly consider watching again. The scenes were phenomenal, proving that a lot of time and effort was put in to make this a great film!
Counterpoint: ‘Bird Box’ is trash!
It doesn’t surprise me that “Bird Box” is a popular film. After all, it’s smack dab in the center of Netflix when you open it up, which is the most popular movie streaming service being used. However, does surprise me that the movie is being well received in a critical sense because it is very poorly made. Here’s why.
There are plenty of things that I disliked about the film. Machine Gun Kelly’s performance, dialogue, and lack of purpose all stuck out to me while I watched the early sections of the movie. There’s a generic comic relief character, some subplots that aren’t really given enough time to become interesting but still exist, and the entire movie felt so cut and dry, like a commercial product and not a piece of art.
However, for the sake of brevity, I’m only going to really dissect what I consider to be the films fatal flaws. The first of which, is that the world and most of its interesting aspects feel very poorly realized. There’s a point in this movie where the main character, played by Sandra Bullock, and her love interest (his name is Tom) have an argument about naming their children. Bullock doesn’t want to give them name’s because she thinks that it will in someway compromise their ability to survive in this new sightless apocalypse. Her love interest thinks that the children need love and some form of genuine compassion, and thinks of naming them something other then “Boy” and “Girl.”
This seems totally fine on paper, until you think about the fact that “Boy” and “Girl” are both just five years old. They are having a big argument about whether or not to name the children, five years into their lives. This is something that would have come up within the first few weeks after birth, and it makes no sense for it to be a major point of contention between these two characters five years down the road. They’ve been calling these two children “Boy” and “Girl” for five years, and only just now, at this very moment, did the love interest man have a serious enough issue with it for an argument to occur. Just to clarify, there’s no hint of this argument being an ongoing or reoccurring ordeal during the dialogue.
The entirety of “Bird Box”‘s runtime is plagued with an utter lack of logical consistency and attention to detail. When you pervade your film with those two things, and then also have the main character’s arc largely take place in the background, you have the perfect recipe for taking the viewer out of the experience, breaking tension, and undercutting the emotional value of that arc. Bullock’s arc is supposed to be overcoming this inability to empathize and connect to other people and it’s showed at three times throughout the movie: number one being right in the beginning when she is discussing her dying social life with her sister, number two being the argument with her naming the children, and the third when she overcomes the whole situation. There is the establishment of the arc, a minor dialogue scene that illustrates it, and overcoming it. It’s so sparse in nature that you never really even get the chance to see it in action, especially not in a way that feels natural or makes any sense.
Bullock still has a full face of perfect makeup, five years into an apocalyptic monster scenario. She also apparently wears her full face of perfect makeup to bed. Her love interest maintains a perfect fade and jacked up body, for five years of apocalyptic monster related survival. These details may seem nitpicky or minor on the surface, but they start to really build up, causing you start to question things you may not have thought of before.
Oh yeah, and how is Sandra Bullock going to navigate through a huge stretch of river, while carrying two five year old children, while also being completely and utterly blind? The answer is that she just does it, apparently. I don’t know why I have to say this, but it’s not at all possible without some sort of strategy or solution. The movie never really shows us the methods and clever ways to avoid the monsters that would absolutely be necessary to navigate a dangerous apocalypse completely blind and actually live.
To add, it doesn’t address, expand upon, or even answer the most interesting questions it asks: how is Sandra Bullock planning on navigating these dangerous rapids, the kind of dangerous rapids that are essentially suicidal to go into blind? Does she invent some sort of pole poking system to avoid rocks or Macgyver her boat into being more durable? Does she maybe detect them early and discover a different path?
The genius decision that ends up being made, is to just float in blind and hope for the best. Not to mention, somehow, all three people on the boat survive. The boat capsizes and nobody is significantly harmed during the passage. It’s an affront to common sense, but what’s even more damaging to this movie’s quality is the fact that this scene isn’t at all satisfying nor interesting.
The movie also asks a bunch of other super interesting questions, most of them about monsters, such as: What are the monsters? What are the people who can survive looking for? Is there a prerequisite that a person needs in order to survive? Is there some way to outsmart them? Are the monsters even monsters?
Bird Box literally answers none of these questions. At one point, we are given a line of dialogue about escaped asylum convicts being the evil monster-ified humans, suggesting that perhaps the prerequisite in question is a certain level of mental instability. Unfortunately, it’s never expanded upon more than that, and that line of dialogue itself is a plot hole because the person saying it shouldn’t have any way of verifying or even knowing about the convicts. Not answering the most exciting and interesting questions that the concept of your film naturally poses, is a highway route to making your film boring and uninteresting.
It doesn’t help that the movie undercuts its basic ability to access dramatic tension by telling its story in the way it does. By cutting back and forth between the two stories, we already know most of what happens in one of them. Half of the time we see them traversing the river and the other half is how she ended up there.
We see Sandra Bullock on the boat with the kids, minus literally everyone else in the movie. So we know that the just-after-apocalypse-start house group that the story focuses on half the time isn’t gonna last, we know that the jacked love interest is gonna bite a bullet even before he does. So the minute the crazy monster eye dudes show up to the love interests place and the minute he says something like “get out of here, I’ll distract them,” we know exactly what is about to take place, and the following scene is devoid of excitement and tension.
By the time Sandra Bullock and her two 5-year-olds make it to the end of their journey, I have already watched an hour and thirty minutes of total nonsense, so I’m not relieved. I’m not feeling anything in my chest or chewing on what the movie has given me. I’m watching the movie get closer and closer to the ending mark and slowly realizing that these monsters are not going to get explained during the runtime. This is the trap that modern films can fall into, and “Bird Box” falls right into it.
There’s a pretty decent basic idea here. There might be a pretty good character arc at the very center of this rotten mess, but “Bird Box” has no idea how to access either of those things, and less idea of how to put them on display. Whoever made it either doesn’t have the skill, or the interest in doing so, and it shows in the final product.