Super Bowl LII turned out to be an exciting, surprising affair. The Philadelphia Eagles pulled off the upset and the Han Solo teaser trailer finally debuted. To top it off, Netflix shocked film nerds by debuting the The Cloverfield Paradox immediately following the game. The Cloverfield Paradox was originally intended for a theatrical release later in March. Prior to its Netflix debut, all of the promotional materials teased a bigger connection to the original Cloverfield, Needless to say, anticipation was high.
Released by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions and directed by Matt Reeves, the original Cloverfield (2007) was a fun found-footage film. No it wasn’t groundbreaking but it still entertained. The 2016 film, 10 Cloverfield Lane, proved to be one of the better horror films that year. Moreover, it created a world of possibilities for a potentially shared world of Cloverfield–related anthology films. Not surprisingly then, anticipation was high for The Cloverfield Paradox.
The Cloverfield Paradox is set in a future where an energy crisis has led to global tensions and the threat of war. An international research crew conduct a risky experiment aboard the Cloverfield Space Station. While their tests with a particular accelerator appear successful, an accident leaves the ship drifting in space far from Earth. Strange occurrences lead the crew to believe that they may have been transported to an alternate dimension. As time passes, these different dimensions in a multi-verse begin “bleeding” into one another.
Interesting Premise and Strong Cast Let Down By Weak Script
Despite an interesting premise and good cast, The Cloverfield Paradox doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself from similar movies. There’s a feeling of déjà vu that hangs over everything from start to finish. It’s too bad because buried in the script is a genuinely fun idea. A multiverse where individual decision can trigger just slight variations in reality is a ripe premise for a cerebral sci-fi movie. The movie’s performances, particularly from Gugu Mbatha-Raw, really drive home these moral implications. Director Julius Onah’s methodical approach to revealing thee paradoxes also adds an element of mystery.
Unfortunately, these strong points are ultimately let down by a film that feels generic. The Cloverfield Paradox fails to generate much atmosphere or tension. There’s also a lack of any real scares of which to speak. The few instances it looks like the movie might creep you out only serve as reminders of better films. On more than one occasion, you may find yourself reminded of Event Horizon. Another scene draws an unfavourable comparison to Alien.
There are also some jarring tonal shifts that deflate the story and any sense of urgency.
There are also some jarring tonal shifts that deflate the story and any sense of urgency. In particular, one crew member’s injury is played more for laughs than scares. It’s a the scene just doesn’t seem fit with the rest of the movie. The set design, special effects, and score are fine but make The Cloverfield Paradox feels like those made-for-television movies in the 1980s or the straight-to-video releases from the 1990s; it doesn’t have cinematic feel to it.
There Was A Potentially Good Film Lost in the Mix
Ironically, The Cloverfield Paradox is at its best when the story is back on Earth. Brief scenes of the chaos that erupts following the space station’s disappearance, which are interspersed throughout the film, come the closest to the suspense and urgency of either Cloverfield or 10 Cloverfield Lane. At times, I found myself wishing Onah would spend more time back on Earth with this story. To some extent, the ending deliver the desired connections to the original Cloverfield. Still some of the surprise is undermined by the movie’s marketing campaign. After all, the advertising promised this connection. In contrast, 10 Cloverfield Lane never explicitly made any promises outside its title.
The Cloverfield Paradox is a Serviceable, Underwhelming Effort
The Cloverfield Paradox is not a bad film by any stretch. In fact, it’s a perfectly serviceable if not underwhelming movie. High expectations will undoubtedly play a role in your assessment of its merits. Nevertheless The Cloverfield Paradox can’t escape the feeling that Netflix dumped it after the Super Bowl for a reason. It certainly feels like an effort to cash in on viewer interest before word-of-mouth spread. Perhaps in another dimension there is another good Cloverfield film around the corner. But in this reality you’re better off just re-watching 10 Cloverfield Lane.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: C