Songbird reviews round-up: Critics divided over Michael Bay’s ‘trash cinema’ pandemic film

‘Songbird’ stars ‘Riverdale’’s KJ Apa (KJ Apa/Instagram)
‘Songbird’ stars ‘Riverdale’’s KJ Apa (KJ Apa/Instagram)

The first reviews have dropped for Michael Bay’s film Songbird, and critics appear to be divided.

Although documentaries have been released concerning the pandemic – such as Totally Under Control, a shocking movie about the Trump administration’s handling of the virus – Songbird is the first fictional film to be based on Covid-19.

The new science-fiction thriller, produced by the Transformers director and directed by Adam Mason, was written during America’s lockdown that began in March and was subsequently shot in July.

Set in the near future, Songbird sees Los Angeles under martial law in a world where Covid-19 had mutated into a new and more deadly virus called Covid-23.

Riverdale’s KP Apa, Disney Channel alum Sofia Carson, Demi Moore, Alexandria Daddario, The Office’s Craig Robinson and Fargo’s Peter Stormare lead its cast.

KJ Apa in the Songbird trailerSTX Films
KJ Apa in the Songbird trailerSTX Films

The trailer for the film sees Apa as Nico, a courier immune to the virus, who is racing to save his girlfriend (Carson) from a quarantine camp, ominously called the Q-Zone.

The film appears to have divided critics, with Songbird receiving anywhere between one and four stars.

The Hollywood Reporter penned a scathing review. “Despite the high-stakes drama there’s nary a compelling moment throughout,” it said. “Some of the characteristics [...] are so absurdly one-note that it’s hard not to think that the film is meant to be a parody.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, in the AV Club, says there “isn’t enough to sustain five minutes of video, let alone a feature” and alleges that no “thought has gone into this film”.

Polygon’s Jesse Hassenger writes: “Bay produced the film [not directed], but it’s as flawed and cluttered as anything he’s directed.”

“The shot-under-quarantine Songbird is mostly forgettable,” writes LA Times’s Noel Murray. “It’s actually a fairly thoughtful dystopian melodrama, and cleverly staged – if ultimately a bit under-baked.”

The new film fared more favourably with other outlets.

In his three-star review, The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee called the film an “acceptably watchable thriller” and applauded it as a “technical triumph”.

He wrote: “Despite the many familiar ingredients of Songbird (some of which start to feel musty by the convoluted last act), there’s an undeniable jolt in seeing a glossy thriller rooted in a version of the grim reality we’ve all been facing this year.”

The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin appeared to have thought along the same lines. In his own three-star review, he wrote: “The film is diverting enough as an old-fashioned exploitation movie, but genuinely impressive as an up-to-the-minute work of lockdown pop art.”

Collin adds: “Songbird itself delivers an enjoyably tactless jolt of trash-cinema bravado.”

Most promising was The Times’s review of the film, which it gave four stars. Kevin Maher calls the movie a “high-octane action satire” and commends it for “consistently tread[ing] a delicate path between giddy exploitation and provocative social commentary”.

Songbird is currently out in UK cinemas.

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