With the news of another Bird Box movie, many have wondered to what end. Why is a spinoff necessary? A spinoff is generally a way to explore different areas that the original story neglected or didn’t focus on. In the case of BIRD BOX BARCELONA, we already know that we’re being taken to a different culture and place. But writer/director duo Álex Pastor and David Pastor take things one step forward and explore what happens to those who survive seeing the creatures. More importantly, we see what drives these people to want to expose others to these death-bringing beings.

Technically, you can jump into BIRD BOX BARCELONA without having seen the original film. The premise of the post-apocalyptic scenario is explained well enough for the unfamiliar. Transported to a mostly abandoned Barcelona, we are introduced to Sebastian (Mario Casas) and his daughter, Anna (Alejandra Howard), having a heart-warming moment before it’s shattered by thieves. Such is the shaky nature of their reality.

The shakiness continues knowing how little trust there is among any remaining survivors. Sebastian runs into a group of survivors and asks them to take him. He lures them in with potential access to a generator. At first, it seems like he’s finally found a safe place for him and his daughter. This is before Sebastian’s and Anna’s true intentions are revealed, setting up nail-biting stakes for the remainder of the film.

A noteworthy antihero

By showing their hand early, Álex Pastor and David Pastor sets a level of anticipation and tension that lends itself well to the story. It also easily tells viewers that the stakes are different here. Thus, making it a unique perspective in an already familiar world. Clever blocking and shots make the surprise and secrecy around Sebastian and Anna hit harder once things are revealed.

While Bird Box was thrilling, there were times when the tension was undercut with choppy edits. A more fluid transition from the past to the present in BIRD BOX BARCELONA helps maintain the underlying simmering anxiety that this world has built into it. Flashbacks hint at what’s to come but also provide us with an understanding of why Sebastian is pursuing the path he’s taking. It makes him a compelling antihero.

Wide shots overhead of Barcelona as the cast of characters maneuvers their way around the various neighborhoods remind us of the worldwide implications of this supernatural pandemic. There is no escape out in the open. Every movement of theirs is perceived in the bright expanse of daytime. Where survivors choose to hide is dark and cramped. Claustrophobic, this is a nice throughline from the original film, where the shots chosen emphasize the cramped box the survivors have had to force themselves in.

Religious undertones of BIRD BOX BARCELONA

Zealotism is a commanding force for those who survive the act of seeing the creatures. However, in BIRD BOX BARCELONA, the creatures take on a more religious take. Considering the country the film takes place in, it’s not surprising that this is the case. Especially since it was established in both the novel and the original film that the creatures seem to take on various forms depending on the user.

How Álex Pastor and David Pastor approached the subject matter managed to bring about some clarity. Forced religion is a tricky and uncomfortable subject, but warped under the perception of these seers, we see beauty as well. It almost becomes tempting to want to see, except the cost is shown to be too steep regardless of whether one survives or not.

I would be remiss if I didn’t circle back to the cast. Viewers spend the bulk of their time with Sebastian and Anna. Casas and Howard are a strong father-daughter duo. This dynamic plays well in upending the power dynamics between their two characters, with Howard’s Anna taking on a more dominating sinister tone as BIRD BOX BARCELONA progresses. The connection between Anna and Sebastian’s religious faith plays a hand as well.

A necessary spinoff?

While we get brief moments with the rest of the cast, they infuse their performances with such memorability and likability that it is difficult not to feel empathetic. Michelle Jenner’s performance, however brief, manages to send ripples of emotion. Gonzalo De Castro brings peak cranky man energies into his character and clashes well with Diego Calva’s character’s subtle intellect. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a character you don’t resonate with. But Georgina Campbell’s psychologist proves an excellent foil to Sebastian but takes on the maternal role of the film, even if she proves to be an inept protector of her child ward.

Some may find BIRD BOX BARCELONA an unnecessary spinoff. However, the spinoff improves on its predecessor. The overall pacing and tone prove to be a substantial improvement, with the transitions between the past and present feeling fluid. No abrupt stops here, folks. BIRD BOX BARCELONA also gives us an insight into what the “seers” aka the people who can see see and experience. And how easily it can sway these particular groups of survivors to want to show others their experience.

Of the two films, BIRD BOX BARCELONA is the stronger for me. In the grand scheme of things, it expands the world into something on a larger scale. The choice of character decisions builds a much-needed natural anxiety that carries us from beginning to end and leaves us questioning the intentions of our antihero all the way through. BIRD BOX BARCELONA builds on its predecessor, crafting an experience that feels familiar while offering a new perspective riddled with tension.

BIRD BOX BARCELONA arrives on Netflix July 14.

Sarah Musnicky
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