In the opening scenes of “Bird Box Barcelona,” we get a glimpse into the film’s take on destiny, which feels a bit superficial. The sequel to the thrilling “Bird Box” is set in Spain and follows Sebastián (played by Mario Casas) and his daughter Anna (portrayed by Alejandra Howard) as they enjoy her birthday with some roller skating fun. Their celebration takes a turn when they are ambushed by a trio of blind bandits hungry for their supplies. Later on, they run into a group of survivors who beg for assistance. Sebastián offers his skills as a former engineer, claiming he knows the generator’s location—all he needs is a place to stay for the night.
The group welcomes him, providing care for his injuries. During a restful night inside a safe depot, their bus gets stolen, leaving everyone vulnerable to the dangers outside. If you’re familiar with the original “Bird Box,” you’ll remember the mysterious entities that compel people to end their lives after whispering their innermost wishes. Now, the story poses a question about Sebastián’s true nature: Is he a protector or a threat? Although co-directors David Pastor and Àlex Pastor try to weave religious themes into this apocalyptic tale, their execution seems to lack both innovation and purpose, almost as if they’re trying to replicate the success of the first movie without its freshness.
“Bird Box Barcelona” borrows an interesting concept from Susanne Bier’s original film—some individuals can gaze upon these beings without harming themselves, instead forming a cult-like devotion to them. Seven months earlier, Sebastián had an encounter with the local faction of this group in Barcelona. The full details of this event unfold slowly, but we learn about Sebastián’s belief system in the meantime. He views these creatures as angelic beings, and he’s oddly fascinated by the glowing sphere that ascends from those who perish.
“Bird Box Barcelona” presents itself as a tale woven around the theme of sorrow, yet it touches on this heavy topic with a rather uninspired approach. Sebastián soon stumbles upon another band of survivors, this time under the leadership of Claire (portrayed by Georgina Campbell), a British Spaniard who curiously mirrors Sandra Bullock’s wardrobe from the original movie—a somewhat obvious nod to try and capture the same enchantment. Among Claire’s group are several key members: Octavia (played by Diego Calva, whose talents aren’t fully utilized), a young German girl named Sofia (Naila Schuberth) searching for her mother, and an older couple, Isabel (Lola Dueñas) and Roberto (Gonzalo de Castro). Each of them has experienced loss, rendering them susceptible to the entities’ seductive whispers that mimic the voices of their dearly departed.
The screenplay by the Pastor brothers, still drawing from Josh Malerman’s novel, only lightly grazes the concept of mourning. The film suggests that the scars left by loss can cloud your judgment, warp your reasoning, and perhaps even propel you into a zealous quest. However, this notion isn’t convincingly portrayed in the characters. We’re merely shown the superficial layers of their sadness without delving deeper. Aside from Sebastián, the film doesn’t explore whether any of them hold religious beliefs or if they harbor any resentment towards a higher power for their plight. The movie hurries to draw a stark contrast between Sebastián’s purpose and the motives of the others, neglecting to give us enough reason to truly empathize with them.
The sense of mystery and suspense that was so gripping in the original “Bird Box” seems to have dissipated in this sequel. Instead, the main quest for the survivors is to navigate through Barcelona towards a fleet of gondolas that promise safe passage to Montjuic Castle—a place rumored to shelter other survivors, possibly including Sofia’s mother.
As they journey, Sebastián inevitably wrestles with his beliefs, yet this struggle doesn’t quite hit the mark when it comes to creating tension. The same goes for the horror elements. Despite the skilled editing by Luis de la Madrid and Martí Roca and the careful cinematography by Daniel Aranyó, “Bird Box Barcelona” falls short of delivering genuine scares. Even the climactic dash to the gondolas, where Sebastián and company confront the cult leader—a man marked by a third eye on his hand—lacks depth, leaving the antagonist feeling more like an illusion than a real threat.
There’s nothing fundamentally flawed with what the Pastor brothers have put together. The film is polished, reflecting the quality you’d anticipate from a well-funded production. Yet, as the credits roll, you can’t help but wonder what new dimensions a subsequent sequel could explore that this one evidently did not. None of the actors bring the same energy as Sandra Bullock did, nor does the plot feel as cohesive as the first installment. In the end, if seeing is supposed to lead to belief, “Bird Box Barcelona” struggles to reveal anything particularly compelling.
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