The script by the Pastors (with Josh Malerman’s novel still an inspiration) skims the surface of grief. Their film says that the trauma wrought by grief might push you to lose your senses, decimate your logic, and maybe even make you go on a religious crusade. But that sense isn’t deeply felt in any of the characters. Instead, we’re given their base-level tragedy and not much else. Outside of Sebastián, are any of them religious? Do they blame God for what happened? The film is in such a rush to create a quick binary between Sebastián’s mission and this group of people that it doesn’t bother to get us to care about them.
It doesn’t help that much of the mystery and intrigue that accompanied the concept from the previous “Bird Box” evaporates here. Rather the primary goal is for these survivors to trace their way through Barcelona to a set of gondolas that’ll take them to Montjuic Castle, where there are rumors that survivors are hiding out. Sofia’s mom might even be among them.
Along the way, Sebastián must, of course, grapple with his faith. But that internal conflict lacks dramatic tension. The same can be said about the horror aspect. “Bird Box Barcelona” is cut with assured hands by editors Luis de la Madrid and Martí Roca and shot with a watchful eye by cinematographer Daniel Aranyó, but there’s a general dearth of shocks. That bite is even absent from the film’s final race to the gondolas, where Sebastián and the survivors must square off with the head of this doomsday cult. Its leader, a bearded man with a third eye branded on his hand, is so barely sketched he might as well be a figment of Sebastián’s mind.
There’s nothing inherently bad in the Pastors’ film. It’s competently made with the general sheen you expect from a bigger budget. You are, however, left scratching your head about what another sequel could bring that this one clearly couldn’t. No one in this cast is as dynamic as Bullock, nor is anything as tightly conceived as in the prior film. If seeing is believing, “Bird Box Barcelona” doesn’t have much to show.
On Netflix tomorrow, July 14th.