Silver Linings V: Birdemic and the Questions Surrounding Environmental Disaster

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By Michael Dellapi, Highlighter staff columnist

Let it be known that there is nothing but my own intellectual inferiority preventing me from becoming fully engrossed in the cinematic titan that is “Birdemic.” I will be completely honest when I say that I am not entirely sure what the underlying metaphor is behind the cult classic. For those unfamiliar, “Birdemic” is a storytelling labyrinth whose center focuses on a group of people trying their best to survive in a sudden environmental catastrophe. Birds have begun to inexplicably fall from the sky and explode upon impact. In other instances, they spit acid on people. Through protagonist Rod’s journey, the audience is invited to immerse themselves in a gripping adventure about love, loss, ecological apocalypse, family values and much more. Critics have compared “Birdemic” to Hitchcock’s “The Birds” for obvious reasons (brilliant cinematography, symphonious audio, suspenseful plot structure). However, I find the film to more accurately align with David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest.” Like the classic novel, “Birdemic” is a twisting and sometimes incomprehensible opus of a multitude of different conflicts. Perhaps by deconstructing these conflicts we may be able to better understand the metaphorical complexity of “Birdemic.”

The most obvious theme underlying this film is, naturally, the discussion of ecological disaster and how to create a more sustainable future. The conversation that the protagonist has with an unmemorable scientist highlights the lasting implications of global warming. Conversely, the introduction of the bizarre “tree hugger” illustrates how modern media ridicules those attempting to find a solution to ecological problems. The absurd structure of the character’s dialogue and general lack of acting prowess all serve to collectively underscore an heir of whimsy that acts in tension with the film’s foreboding message. And so, does director James Nguyen wish to reflect that the looming threat of global warming is an inevitable force that will end in terror? Or perhaps he attempts to show these traumatic events as a call ­to­ action, galvanizing his viewer base into taking strides towards a more environmentally friendly future. This is just one of the many dichotomies that Nguyen is able to call into question.

Ecological disaster aside, there is still much to be said about the interpersonal dynamics of the film. Why is the protagonist’s love interest inexplicably enamored by the world’s possibly least interesting man? How is a human being’s performance somehow able to remind me of the Uncanny Valley? “Birdemic” is evidently far from being a “one ­issue” piece despite it being so easy to label it as to the unenlightened mind. However, delving deeper into the myriad of questions that are presented highlights the ultimate chaos that lies inside its cinematic universe. This movie is so profound and enlightening my feeble mind will never be able to grasp it’s true depth.


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