Songbird. Mercenary Filmmaking Attitude+ COVID+ Backlash = Free Publicity

On 29 October 2020, a trailer was released that made a large section of “film Twitter” completely lose their minds. This trailer was for Songbird. Produced by Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes it was a dystopian post-apocalyptic COVID thriller conceived short and released while the pandemic is still sweeping the world. There were endless hot takes about how inappropriate this concept was at this point in the global COVID timeline. Putting the cast and crew in danger of contracting the vires purely to get this exploitative cash grab made film Michael Bay is a deserved Hollywood punching bag for mostly very good reason. The thing is these reactions were all based on a trailer. Well, there be no reason to expect the film would be any good. That said it at least deserves to be treated with some level of critical analysis by people that have seen it rather than judging entirely based on the moral and ethical questions of whether it should even exist. Thus when the films SVOD rights were quickly sold to Amazon this reviewer took the chance to indulge his morbid curiosity. How bad could it be?
On one level Songbird is every bit as bad as viewers might expect. Quick and lazy whilst at the same time feeling massively overstaffed and underdeveloped. It imagines a world four years in the future with what is now referred to as COVID 23 still rampant throughout the world. K.J Apa plays a courier who spends the film trying to track down an immunity pass on the black market for his girlfriend Sofia Carson from dealers Bradley Whitford and Demi Moore. There are other side storeys involving Craig Robinson, Alexandra Daddario and Paul Walter Hauser but outside of one unintentionally hilarious moment in the film’s climax, these other elements feel like a barely connected mess., It’s the sort of teen drama that if released at any other time would open to below-average reviews. It would then last a week in cinemas before joining the endlessly expanding queue of forgettable films vying for audience attention on streaming. The mercenary attitude from the filmmakers completing the project at this precise time may have got the from copious amounts of negative publicity. It’s the exact sort of backlash the filmmakers would have expected given the subject matter. Ultimately in cases like this involve getting whatever piece of media it is in front of potential audiences eyeballs there’s no such thing as bad publicity. It’s the reason why this critic sorts out the film in the first place and why he is now writing this review. Speaking honestly beyond moral questions of whether it should exist there’s nothing to get overly angry at. This is especially true if audiences have seen their fair share of mediocre to abysmal team dramas. If viewers want to see what mainstream but misjudged that the point of potentially incredibly offensive looks like much better examples exists. Copies of The Fanatic, The Book Of Henry and Collateral Beauty should be readily available on digital platforms. These three films have a much greater sense of “how on earth does this even exist” with much more morally questionable material.
When taken on its own merits as a piece of filmmaking Songbird is the sort of bland and generic young adult drama that should in a just world pass without a moments notice. Thanks to the mercenary attitude of the filmmakers who knew they could farm outrage culture and bad “film Twitter” hot takes into publicity for the production if they made it now. Outside of the COVID backdrop and the moral questions of shooting anything during this point in world history ( Michael Bay connection or otherwise. ), The film feels painfully calculated. Even if watchers are looking for something to get morally offended by there are better recent mainstream options available. It’s hard not to think that the makers of Songbird set out to achieve there clear social media outrage = promotion goal regardless of the film objective quality. This far more interesting debate will continue with several films every single year. Songbird was just a COVID related example.
Film rating. 3/10

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