“The Cloverfield Paradox” is the third installment in the loosely connected Cloverfield film franchise and it’s directed by Julius Onah. The basic premise is that a group of astronauts are aboard an international space station in the year 2028 and their goal is to use a particle accelerator to try and create a new source of energy for Earth, which is on the brink of war due to the lack of renewable energy. However, the crew ends up in an alternate dimension after using the accelerator and now they have to find a way back to their dimension.
The marketing for this movie is probably the best thing about it. While it was in production, it was simply known as “God Particle” and there had been talks of it being released later in the year as a third Cloverfield film, but the first ever trailer made a surprise drop during the Super Bowl on Sunday and not only that, but the trailer stated that the movie was making its debut on Netflix just a couple hours later. So after seeing the treat of Tom Brady losing, we scrambled to Netflix to hopefully see another treat in a great Cloverfield movie. I love the first two films, which is why it’s disappointing to say that “The Cloverfield Paradox” truly shows its quality as a Netflix movie.
I’ll start off positively and give credit to the overall look of the movie. For a Netflix film, it actually does have some pretty decent visuals, specifically of shots in space and of the space station. The production design of the interior of the ship itself is passable enough for this type of movie and there’s even some stuff back on Earth that looks good as well. This movie had the budget of 45 million dollars and the makers actually made a decent looking film out of it.
This movie also has a solid lineup of actors. Our main character whom we latch onto is played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw and she does do a genuinely good job as a wounded, emotionally distraught character with a tragic backstory. We also have the talent of David Oyelowo and Daniel Bruhl making the best of some questionable writing. Granted, there are some scenes in this movie where something really shocking and surprising happens and the crew gives some pretty subdued reactions, almost like they’re seeing something as minor as a juice spill, but that could be blamed more on direction than the actors. The cast still does the best with that they’re given.
Where the movie really falls apart is in its storytelling. It being a movie set in an alternate dimension, the actual explanation behind it all is very lazy. One scene in the beginning of the movie just throws everything at the audience in a heavy dosage of exposition and from there it still feels like we’re not being given everything. A lot of strange stuff happens to this crew, one of them being a severed arm that apparently has a mind of its own, but there’s no explanation behind it. This movie is filled with all sorts of weird, unnatural phenomenon and the movie’s lazy excuse of an explanation is “Because it’s an alternate dimension, now shut up and watch.” We don’t know if the bizarre happenings are a result of ghosts, monsters, a glitch in the Matrix, or a rip in the space-time continuum, and the movie itself doesn’t seem to know either.
There’s also a completely useless subplot involving the main character’s husband back on Earth. It’s basically just small looks of him trying to survive some type of attack on Earth, but it adds nothing to the film other than an extra 15 minutes of forced tie-ins to the first Cloverfield movie. It’s completely irrelevant to the main story and it’s ultimately a subplot that could’ve been removed from the movie entirely.
The aspects about the first two movies that I love are in how they were genre movies that managed to subvert the cliches of those particular genres. The first movie was a monster movie, but it had suspense along with the found footage element that made everything feel all the more real and intense. “10 Cloverfield Lane” was a psychological thriller, but it kept you guessing every step of the way and it didn’t fall into the usual tropes of a movie about someone being held hostage in one area. With this movie, though, it feels very derivative of other space thrillers, whether it be last year’s “Life”, the cheesy “Event Horizon”, or the sci-fi classic “Alien”. This movie simply isn’t its own thing and it feels less special in the sense that the first two movies truly do stand out as their own thing.
All in all, “The Cloverfield Paradox” is a very mediocre space thriller that muddles the Cloverfield mythos more than it expands it. It’s honestly quite obvious that this movie was originally just shot as its own standalone film, but the decision was made to do some last minute reshoots to force some Cloverfield references in to try and tie it into this franchise. This is easily the worst of the Cloverfield films so far and I’m just hoping that the next installment will take the road of being its own, well made film that doesn’t have to shoehorn references to the previous movies.