As an energy crisis leads to international tensions, a group of International scientists are sent into space with a particle accelerator, in hopes of creating an alternative energy solution. However, after a seemingly successful run, they find themselves apparently stranded in space without any guidance system.
This is a movie that I have known about for about a year or so, and I was excited for the idea of it. Originally entitled The God Particle, this film had JJ Abrams as a producer, leading many to correctly believe that this would be the third installment in the Cloverfield pseudo-franchise. With an impressive cast, including Gugu Mbatha-Raw (San Junipero), David Oyelowo (Selma) and Daniel Bruhl (Captain America: Civil War), I had every expectation that this film would be an impressive follow-up to an impressive follow-up to something of a cult film from 2008. Then the movie kept getting pushed back, and then, about two weeks ago, I saw an article saying that Paramount was giving the film to Netflix. At the time, I didn’t think anything of it, and was just excited for an upcoming instant relief. Then during the big game where the team that’s been there eight times in the last 17 years played against the team with fans who throw batteries at other humans, Netflix aired an ad for The Cloverfield Paradox and it was revealed that the film would be uploaded immediately following the conclusion of the game. My excitement had reached its peak. The stealth marketing of 10 Cloverfield Lane had been out done, be announcing a movie was hours away from release, and I had hope that the film itself would also outdo its predecessor.
So yeah, that didn’t even kind of happen. This film is easily the worst in the franchise, with an unsteady idea of what story it wants to tell, a cast that ranges from wasted to outright bad, and then a Cloverfield connection that somehow feels more forced than a sudden alien chase scene during a tense film dripping in paranoia. I think if this movie didn’t have the Cloverfield title or the cast that it had, I would have been able to temper my expectations for this movie a bit more, and I would have been able to enjoy it on the level of “this is a deeply stupid sci-fi movie.” Instead, I’m left frustrated and wondering what should have been.
So the one thing that I want to note is that Gugu Mbatha-Raw really does some solid work in the lead role. She’s the only character who has any real extended opportunity to give her character an emotional background, and she sells it well. Her monologue towards the film’s end, at which point I had already cackled at this film at times when it wanted me to be stressed out or scared, actually got me to well up a little bit. Her character’s motivations at times are a bit frustrating and, honestly, nonsensical, but Mbatha-Raw’s emotional performance makes it work as best as it possibly could. Bruhl and Oyelowo are both entirely wasted, but at least sell their nothing characters sufficiently.
The rest of the cast exists on a plane of being nothing, and then Chris O’Dowd tries his best as a comic relief character, but the main dramatic moment he has was so laughably bad, I rewound the moment, filmed it on my phone, and sent it to my friends. From the utter lack of panic in his voice, to the face where it looks like he is about to start laughing, it’s impossible to believe that was the best take that O’Dowd had. I was already pretty concerned that this movie wasn’t going to work, but at that point, I mentally checked out and refused to believe they could ever recover from that moment in any meaningful way, and I was correct.
So the real problem with this movie comes down to the story, or, realistically, the lack of story. This movie has no idea about what it wants to be. Is it a science fiction with a social commentary to deliver to the masses? Is it a straight horror film where creatures have taken over some of the scientists, forcing them to do their will? Or, is it even a straight horror film where the ship itself is turning against its crew, because it is actually hell itself? Is it a less overhyped episode of Rick and Morty where they deal with a multiverse (Rick and Morty is a sufficiently entertaining show, stop being garbage humans, fans)? Every other scene on the ship feels like the movie is going to start heading in a different science fiction direction, and I think if they focused on one or another, this film would have at least been serviceable. But instead it feels like a shotgun blast of a story, where it tries its best to hit as wide a target as possible, but the accuracy leaves much to be desired. And that’s even before I discuss the obviously lately-added scenes on Earth, giving us an added understanding to what is going on on the ground, so that when the film’s final moments go by what we’re left with isn’t outright confusion as to how this could happen, but, instead, is a cackling disappointing, wondering why this entire thing happened.
This movie is a bummer. It doesn’t live up to either of its preceding films. It doesn’t live up to its incredibly under-recognized cast. It doesn’t even live up to its shocking sudden marketing and release. It’s just here to exist. Paramount and Netflix played this well. Paramount ditched a movie that would have been a tremendous flop and instead made a profit out of it. Netflix took a movie with a recognizable title and shock-marketed it to the point of being a Twitter event. No one is necessarily harmed, except the fans who had higher hopes, but we will survive. From my understanding, Paramount has the next film in the universe ready for release, potentially later this year. I am encouraged by the fact that, as of right now, Paramount is sticking to its guns on that one, but this film has definitely tempered my expectations for this franchise as a whole. More than that, it has called into question how worthwhile this franchise really is. Why not let films just be films? I understand that at this point adding Cloverfield to the title is going to increase your marketing, but at what cost?
Referneces The Cloverfield Paradox Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cloverfield_Paradox Photo Credit Full Cast Cover Photo https://static.rogerebert.com/uploads/review/primary_image/reviews/the-cloverfield-paradox-2018/hero_Cloverfield3.jpg Nick Young Gif https://media1.tenor.com/images/8d6fcf01abf0246f6e49957b5bdd318b/tenor.gif?itemid=4793800