Review by Sean Boelman
Bird Box was a phenomenon when it came out on Netflix back in 2018, still remaining among the most-watched films in the history of the streaming service. Five years later, we are getting this spin-off continuation, Bird Box Barcelona, and while it seems unlikely to break out as big, its approach is respectable and doesn’t feel like a ridiculous cash grab.
The movie is set in the world of Bird Box, where the world’s population has been decimated by a mysterious entity that causes people to commit suicide after looking at it. While the first film was very much a post-apocalyptic survival thriller, this one takes a very unique approach to the genre that could prove divisive among Netflix subscribers.
Bird Box Barcelona manages to expand the world in ways that are equal parts interesting and frustrating. There are a lot of intriguing questions asked about post-apocalyptic worlds like this, yet the script feels inept at answering them. And the final tease — setting up what might be a direct sequel to this movie, or perhaps even a third spin-off — is annoying and seems mandated by Netflix to keep the IP alive.
Still, there’s no denying that — much like the first film — Bird Box Barcelona is quite effective at crawling under the viewer’s skin. The concept behind this world in general is already disturbing, and this movie takes it in what is an arguably even more disturbing direction. The set pieces in the film are certainly anxiety-inducing, which is exactly what viewers are watching this for.
Unlike many internationally-focused spin-offs, Bird Box Barcelona has a legitimately strong cast. In the supporting cast, cinephiles will recognize a few stars who had their big breaks in 2022: Georgina Campbell of Barbarian and Diego Calva from Babylon. Although the film gives them very little to do, it’s nice to see both of them getting work.
That being said, the more impressive performance in the movie comes from a performer who isn’t as well-known in the United States: Mario Casas. Casas gives a performance that is convincingly emotional, taking a character that is certainly complicated and managing to find the humanity in him.
Compared to the first film, Bird Box Barcelona is significantly more dependent on CGI and it frankly does not look very good. The first film wasn’t a massively expensive blockbuster-level movie either — with a budget under $20 million — yet in trying to make the scale feel bigger in this way, there is the unintentional effect of making it look cheaper.
Bird Box Barcelona is inferior to the unexpected sensation that was the first film, but it’s still entertaining enough to be worth a watch. If nothing else, the takeaway here is that more franchises should do the Cloverfield or Bird Box approach to “sequels” — telling independent stories in a connected world.
Bird Box Barcelona streams on Netflix beginning July 14.