Let’s face it, “Bird Box” is not a good film. But its hype is worth diving into.
I’ve watched “Bird Box” around the New Year’s Eve and honestly – if not for the whole #BirdBoxChallenge thing, I would have already forgotten about its existence.
How, on Earth, “Bird Box” has garnered so many fans, so many heated debates and ardent followers?
Before I make an attempt at answering that, let me briefly say what I believe is wrong in this movie.
What’s wrong with “Bird Box”?
First and foremost, the opaque sketch of the whole story. I am a stranger to the original source – the novel by Josh Malerman – which means that I’m not critical about his work. However, the plot of “Bird Box”, based on the script written by Eric Heisserer (Oscar-nominated screenwriter responsible for among others, “The Arrival”), seems like a vest sprayed with holes by a machine gun.
People begin to commit suicides at random, all over the world. Sounds like Jose Luis Saramago’s “City of Blind” – a global epidemic out of nowhere. The problems begin to pile up when Susanne Bier juggles with the roots of this sickness. We don’t know whether some people are more affected than others, how the “disease” actually works and, well, basically any scrape of information would be valuable.
Instead, Bier chooses to push the characters to do things at complete random. One man can survive in a cold storage chamber (without killing himself, contrary to everyone else), while others act as if the disease kills almost instantly.
“Bird Box” boasts an incredible cast too, but only to use these household names as fodder meat. Both Sarah Paulson and John Malkovich are a laughingstock in Bier’s film and even Trevante Rhodes – a man robbed of an Oscar nom for “Moonlight” – seems vaguely interested in his role. The only person, who actually carries the whole “spectacle” is Sandra Bullock.
I’ll stop my tyrade that enumerates the sins of “Bird Box” right here. If you saw the movie, I’m happy to read your opinions in the comments and discuss further.
However, let’s move to the phenomenon of “Bird Box” – how come such a crappy film gets that much attention?
Why is “Bird Box” so popular?
My first thought was “the bestselling source”. But while Mallerman was praised for his short debut (even compared to Stephen King), the book wasn’t anywhere near a success as big as “50 Shades of Grey” – also turned into a bad, but understandably popular movie. The novel was mildly popular to be honest.
The second thought was – the cast. This was also a quick “no”, right after I’ve read an article that Millenials often don’t even know the actress’ name. John Malkovich isn’t wildly popular either, especially for the users of Netflix (as he never starred in any major production of Netflix). Trevante Rhodes only paves his way to becoming a trademark, while Sarah Paulson isn’t particularly liked in general (my thought after reading comments under “Bird Box” trailer comments on Youtube).
What could be the reason then?
My guts tell me that it’s actually few things.
After the wildly successful “A Quiet Place”, “Bird Box” has followed the path of a post-apocalyptic drama/horror. Audiences like these concepts. “Mad Max: Fury Road”, apart from an iconic director, was praised for its vivid depiction of the apocalypse. “I Am Legend” has gained a cult following despite its mixed critical response too. Even “Annihilation” found its ardent fans despite all its flaws.
My point is that post-apocalyptic movies are “kinda” liked more by default.
Second reason is the social media trends. Most of the people aren’t jumping on the hype train of new Gaspar Noe film. It’s too auteur, too complicated. But a new superhero movie? A different story. We crave big spectacles and looking for depth in shallowness. And the power of social media fosters that. All it takes is a group of people who – contrary to the critics – are determined enough to spread the word. Critics will write a review, share it and that’s it. A dedicated fan will do much, much more. Give a movie something to criticize and something to like (an interesting premise, a bit of jump scares) and there you have it.
Obviously there is also the #BirdBoxChallenge. A dangerously stupid thing, born in the minds of ridiculously stupid people. But this was also the incredible marketing leverage. Imagine having a mediocre film at hand and gaining the exposure such as this ridiculous challenge. EVERYONE is talking about your film. For wrong reasons – sure – but still.
Whether you and I like it or not, “Bird Box” will be another reason for Netflix to care less about the quality, but rely on quantity. I just hope that it won’t bring any more casualties resulting from the challenge. Because it’s not a film worth dying for (if any film is).
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