In the quiet moment between opening the app and scrolling to what I wanted to watch, Netflix pounced. The Bird Box trailer was underway before I even knew what was happening.
It was intriguing enough to earn a place on my watch list, but that’s where it would have stayed if it hadn’t been for all the memes and hype and “Bird Box challenges”.
Instead, Bird Box became the second movie I watched in 2019, and because I’m on a review kick, I’m writing about it.
Well played, Netflix.
Spoiler warning: this movie spoils itself, so I don’t need to provide a spoiler warning. Seriously, the way it flashes back to more people being alive tells you almost everything you’d prefer not to know. Thriller? Not so much.
Horror? Bird Box isn’t a solid performer in this category either. People do some shocking things under the influence of a nefarious “entity” that takes over the world, but there isn’t a great deal of heart-palpitating awfulness beyond the opening scenes.
To manage expectations, this movie really should have been marketed as a drama.
Implausible plot lines and continuity issues aside: big-name actors, lesser-known actors, and brand-new child actors turn in a very solid set of performances that almost redeem an otherwise disappointing production. (The kids are very young and very amazing, especially towards the end of the movie.)
But what is Bird Box supposed to be about? The nature of the “entity” is never fully revealed nor resolved, and the birds (which provide warning when it’s nearby) don’t make a lot of sense of allegorically, so if the movie has an intended meaning, it’s too ambiguous to be constructive.
Unsurprisingly, a quick google for “Bird Box meaning” offers many possibilities but no definitive answers. If it’s about the unknowns of parenting, its message is all but worthless (and you don’t have to look too hard to find psychologists and parent groups condemning this interpretation). If it’s about racism, I can’t see how. If it’s about social media, what are the birds? If it’s about mental health, who are the ‘healthy’ ones? But hey, at least it’s easy to come up with theories and extrapolate from them. (Hello, future high school curricula.)
The best theory I can come up with is that it’s about Trumpism. The “entity” is the unstoppable advance of fake news, fake facts and fake science. When sane people see this for what it is, they want to kill themselves immediately (understandable if a little extreme). When insane people see it, they’re totally accepting and think everyone else should be too (so the infected but non-suicidal people represent Trumplings). And the birds represent fragile truth and the fading hope that it will make a difference.
That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.