The Cloverfield franchise has had an interesting history of releases. The first film in the series was introduced to the world in a nameless trailer. The second film, 10 Cloverfield Lane, started its life under a different name, and closer to release was given the Cloverfield label. The third and most recent film was originally titled God Particle, and only after a troubled release schedule did it finds its way to Netflix, where it was surprise released following Superbowl LII. Now that I have seen The Cloverfield Paradox, I only wish it somehow got lost in the void of space.
The opening minutes of The Cloverfield Paradox are actually promising. It paints a world where the need for energy has plunged the world into inevitable global war. We get a glimpse of a space station and its crew and are introduced to Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Hamilton, the de facto protagonist of this flick. The crew are working on a particle-accelerator experiment that will somehow fix the Earth’s energy problems through science magic. This is never fully explained, and even by the end credits of the film, it remains unclear how the particle-accelerator in space beams its power down to earth, but I digress.
The crew is made up of the usual types we have all come to expect from a space station film of this nature, and while the cast is strong, the characters they are playing are not. Actos like Ziyi Zhang, Chris O’Dowd, David Oyelowo, John Ortiz, Aksel Hennie, and Daniel Brühl are wasted in their roles. With a good script this cast could have made something truly special, but sadly, all have to work with what The Cloverfield Paradox gave them, and frankly, it is paper thin at best.
As soon as we are introduced to everyone and the lackluster premise, things all go sideways. As the crew are set to test the particle-accelerator, they experience an overload and the station is somehow transported to an unknown location, with the very rules of reality thrown out the airlock.
While the story was silly up to this point, the premise gave me hope they could do interesting things with the world they have built. The concept that reality is now “broken” is an interesting one, and if done properly, they could have introduced Lovecraftian elements into this generic science fiction world. Sadly, as the film moves forward, it becomes clear that it will devolve into your standard jump scares and shock deaths with a few body horror moments thrown in for good measure.
As things on the space station start to go wrong, Hamilton’s husband Michael (Roger Davies) is stuck on Earth trying to survive while some unknown entity causes havoc (spoiler, it is the Cloverfield monster). While I did feel these were some of the more intimate moments in the film, he is given little to do. Beyond saving Molly (Clover Nee), a young girl who has found herself lost in the wasteland of what used to be London, all he really does is look at text messages and try to reach his wife.
The Cloverfield Paradox had such potential. From the way the news broadcasts at the beginning of the film foreshadowed potential interdimensional demons to the way the crew and station were now “wrong” in some way, there was as a gem in this concept somewhere, it just got lost in a muddled hodgepodge of a final film.
The film clearly did not know what it wanted to be. From the awkward comedy of Chris O’Dowd’s Mundy to the family drama of Hamilton to the political tensions that come from a world without power, it felt like a grab bag of a movie that never found its footing. The space station looks impressive, the cast was fantastic, and even the concept was interesting, it just feels they ultimately did not know how to turn the individual parts into something worth watching.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some genuinely engrossing moments in the film, like the seemingly sentient severed arm of Chris O’Dowd’s Mundy, and how the character of Jenson (played by Elizabeth Debicki) is put through a particularly twisted body horror filled scene. The only issue is that much of what the film does has been done better in other movies. Even the bloody shlock fest Event Horizon executed on its similar ideas better than The Cloverfield Paradox.
After watching this film, it is obvious why Paramount did not want it to go up against the box office flop Life, and while that movie may have been bad, at least it made some sort of sense. The Cloverfield Paradox feels like a slapped together mess, a film that at one time had potential, but due to either studio involvement or the process of making it part of the Cloverfield franchise, something broke and the final film is an incomprehensible, floundering, pointless slog.
As Paramount offloaded the release of The Cloverfield Paradox to Netflix, they dodged a bullet. With the nature of Netflix, this movie will without a doubt draw millions of viewers, but as with the ill convinced Bright, I can’t imagine many will walk away feeling any sort of fulfilment. While I like what Cloverfield has offered up to this point, if this is the sort of movie we can expect moving forward, it may be time to jettison this monster movie franchise into the darkness of space for good.
Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more of Brendan Frye’s work such as his interview with EA Motive about Star Wars: Battlefront II, and his in-depth look at the Equifax Hack!
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