Skip to content

The Last of Us stole Netflix’s Bird Box Barcelona’s thunder

Netflix's Bird Box Barcelona, a horror film, confronts very tough competition in its particular genre. While the first Bird Box, which established Sandra Bullock as a legitimate Netflix star, may have benefited from coming out later in the same year as the startlingly similar hit The Quiet Place, Bird Box Barcelona debuts five years later following a wave of horror stories with comparable dynamics, The Last of Us being foremost among them. It's also difficult to watch the new movie without hearing echoes of all the other recent tales where a beleaguered dad figure struggles to keep a preteen kid safe in a post-apocalyptic world full of low-level but incredibly lethal monsters, even though it does expand the world of Bird Box in some small but intriguing ways.

bird cage Barcelona takes set around the same period as Bird Box, but it focuses on what happens when strange beasts invade Europe and society disintegrates. (It also leaves all the Bird Box characters out and has nothing to do with Malorie, the follow-up to the horror novel by Josh Malerman that was the basis for the original movie.) Similar to Bird Box, a wave of violent suicides that happen suddenly announces the appearance of creatures that most people can't bear to look at; one glance at them triggers madness and prompts instant self-destruction for most people. (Like Bird Box, the new movie completely avoids showing the creatures. This is a really good decision.) When survivors must venture outside to forage in the practically deserted city, they do so while wearing blindfolds or blacked-out goggles, including widower engineer and father Sebastián (Mario Casas).

Similar to Bird Box, the new movie exploits the fear of blind people having to deal with unknown monsters, as well as the innovative, disgusting methods they kill themselves if they do spot one of the creatures. The people Sebastián and his daughter Anna (Alejandra Howard) encounter as they stroll through Barcelona's rubble are wary, tense, and occasionally violent.

(L-R) Bird Box Barcelona stars Gonzalo De Castro as Roberto, Georgina Campbell as Claire, Mario Casas as Sebastian, and Naila Schuberth as Sofia.
Picture: Netflix/Andrea Resmini
Bird Box Barcelona places a lot of emphasis on the feelings of a dad figure struggling to be dependable and capable under extraordinary circumstances that repeatedly threaten a young charge, much like The Last of Us, the first Quiet Place, Sweet Tooth or The Road, or even portions of Station Eleven and The Walking Dead. The dynamics in this picture start to feel incredibly cliche, especially because the story revolves around the same things happening repeatedly: characters run away from the creatures but still come into contact with them, and they end up dying horrifyingly.

Videos Featured From Polygon Living as Mario


XTina GG attempts the impossible: she spends a week pretending to be Mario in order to learn what it really means to be a famous Italian plumber and princess-saver. Tina is making every effort to resemble everyone's favorite video game character, from dining out in Little Italy to wowing everyone at the Coney Island go-kart track.

The formula of the first movie is altered in a few significant ways by Bird Box Barcelona. The monsters—who are variously characterized as angels, aliens, or something totally different—are aggressively evil, capable of fooling people's minds, and strangely invested in whether people live or die, according to screenwriters David and Lex Pastor. The new film also devotes more time than Bird Box to exploring "Seers," the relatively uncommon people who, instead of committing suicide upon seeing the creatures, become fixated on looking at them and force every other survivor they come across to do the same, no matter how many die.

As a result, Bird Box Barcelona ends with a message that is also common to a great many post-apocalyptic tales: Perhaps humanity is the actual monster. Perhaps, the movie argues, being unable to trust others is just as dreadful and awful as being unable to trust your own eyes.

It's simple to identify with Sebastián's frustration as he navigates an unsafe world with his beloved daughter thanks to Casas' well-textured performance in the role. Nevertheless, everything that occurs in Bird Box Barcelona has a "been here, done that" vibe that is not merely a result of how closely it mimics the first Bird Box. That film exudes a far stronger feeling of discovery and intrigue. Malorie (Sandra Bullock), the protective parent wanting to keep her kids alive, had some peculiar peculiarities because she refused to give her children names because she was so desperate not to have irrational expectations about their survival. Sebastián has a unique major flaw that propels the drama of the film, but it still doesn't provide him much of an advantage among a sea of people that are quite similar to him.

Henry, Sam, Joel (Pedro Pascal), and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) hiding behind a car.
Image: Liane Hentscher for HBO
It's not surprising that The Last of Us does a better job with similar characters and emotions given how much room it had to tell its story and the expanded palette of an entire TV season to develop its grieving father figure Joel (Pedro Pascal) and his complicated relationship with his prickly daughter figure Ellie (Bella Ramsey). The hidden Bird Box monsters are enigmatic and difficult to describe, but The Last of Us' mushroom zombies are more visceral, more unpredictable, and grotesque. The secondary cast in Bird Box Barcelona largely consists of discarded victims, unlike The Last of Us, which has room to create memorable side characters.

Fans of the first Bird Box, which is still one of the most popular English original Netflix films ever, may not care about any of this. The spinoff's minor mysteries and surprises might be plenty to keep viewers entertained on a Friday night or a leisurely Sunday afternoon if they simply want more stories to be told in this world and don't mind leaving Bird Box's original protagonists behind.

The Last of Us is already available for those who prefer their sad-dad-found-family horror stories with more substance. Just a little bit feels out of place with Bird Box Barcelona.