Dir. Julius Onah
Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, John Ortiz, Chris O’Dowd, Ziyi Zhang, Elizabeth Debicki, Roger Davies, Aksel Hennie.
There’s a lot of conversation to be had around The Cloverfield Paradox. In terms of following previous Cloverfield methods in distribution it fits right in. Cloverfield started life as just a poster, before adding its title closer to the release date. 10 Cloverfield Lane was a surprise sequel which was filmed secretly and announced only a couple of months before release. So it seems with the third movie they’ve achieve their ultimate goal, a Super Bowl spot which announced the film dropping on Netflix immediately after the game. The element of suprise is an interesting marketing campaign. There’s also a discussion about the worrying trend of studios dumping movies they’re worried about onto Netflix. I’d have been disappointed if 10 Cloverfield Lane had been released straight to Netflix as I’d have been deprived a really great cinema experience. These are all interesting discussions, but what about the actual film?
The Cloverfield Paradox is set in a world of diminishing energy resources. In an attempt to stop the world breaking out into war, a crew of astronauts and scientists are sent into space with a particle accelerator. The idea being that if they can get it to work they will be able to create a renewable energy source which will bring enough energy to everyone, but they have to do it in space as it is too dangerous to experiment with on earth. Our main protagonist is Hamilton, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, a communications officer who is using the mission as an opportunity to heal/find some redemption for the accidental death of her children, whilst leaving her partner Michael, played by Roger Davies, on earth. When the crew finally have a successful collision, something goes wrong, and that’s when the weird stuff starts to happen.
Imagine you are at a bar ordering a drink, you decide to make you’re own cocktail, so you take an ingredient from all your favourite drinks in the menu, shake them up, and serve. You take one sip, and spit it out. It tastes awful. That’s The Cloverfield Paradox. Combining elements of Alien, Solaris, Event Horizon, Moon, Gravity, Interstellar, and even Armageddon, it creates a mix which is so far below the sum of its parts, you can’t believe how bad it is. Clichéd is one word for it, paint by numbers is another. It takes what would have been a really interesting idea, and just throws tropes at it. It’s adequately enough directed and acted, but the screenplay is awful. One dimensional characters just going through the motions. People complained that the scientist in Prometheus were dumb. They look like Nobel Prize winners next to this group. At one point the communications officer tells the group that they aren’t receiving any signals, and they can’t contact home base on earth. The next thing she does is run into her own room to try and contact her partner. Why would she even think this would work? Why is she distressed when it doesn’t? She’s the one in charge of this. It’s a dumb movie. Things go weird for seemingly no reason. Yes, some of it can be explained, but a lot of the set pieces make no logical sense at all. Even the plot line of we turned the particle accelerator on to get us in this mess, let’s turn it on again to get us out, is just stupidity on a massive scale. You’re supposed to be scientists.
The other big problem with this film is in the way in which it ties into the Cloverfield universe. 10 Cloverfield Lane, was a really good suspense thriller, which contained little nods to the Cloverfield universe, and then tied it in smartly with the first movie at the end. This positioned the Cloverfield universe as more of an anthology series, different varieties of genre movies, which may or may not be set in the same universe. The Cloverfield Paradox looks and feels like the main cast didn’t even know they were making a Cloverfield movie. Most of the connections come from Michael, who is left on earth, and these scenes feel so disconnected from the rest of the movie, and ultimately serve no goal. It’s a disjointed film, which even at its short running time is poorly paced.
I’m all for a Cloverfield shared universe, even if it’s just a smart way to market good movies which might otherwise get missed. I just don’t think this is the way to go. The connections feel forced and heavy handed. The focus shifts from telling a good story to joining up the dots. It robs the movie of any real pay off. It’s a shame because the film contains elements of films I really love, this mix though is really boring.