The Cloverfield Paradox – 2018

Director Julius Onah
Screenplay Oren Uziel
Starring  Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Aksel Hennie, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz, David Oyelowo, Zhang Ziyi

As a surprise drop on Netflix a few hours after the Superbowl, The Cloverfield Paradox is packed full of references to the first two films of the series. The film goes a long way to add content and push theories into the forefront. It doesn’t go real far to being a coherent piece of storytelling.

The story, starting in 2028, is presumably a prequel of sorts to the original two films before it. How can this be, when the original film takes place on a Friday night in May, 2008? They will explain it to us. Just not very well.

What it does have, is a decent cast, lead by Mbatha-Raw, Oyelowo, Ziyi, O’Dowd and Brühl. They all play a group of scientists in a space station set on the task of creating what is called the Shepard particle accelerator to create an infinite energy source for Earth. They are a United Nations type cast in the same vein as 2010: The Year We Make Contact, and like that cast the team is at the highest possible tension, representing the tensions on their home planet.

Along the way, we’re given talk about multiple dimensions, chaos and monsters. We see characters that show up in the other movies, even though the films were decades before. The tension is literally boiling over when they decide to do one more test run, which of course goes awry.

They arrive at a different place, with odd things occurring to the crew and the satellite. How this looks is pretty good, for the most part. There is a remarkable drowning / space exposure scene that I have never witnessed before and someone’s arm literally gives some incredibly prescient advice.

The problem is, not a lot of this makes a lot of sense. What parts of the ship and its crew will be affected and when is completely random. The viewer and cast are bounced from event to event, figuring it out and giving exposition so fast, it becomes a load of babble very soon. The story would have been much more engrossing if they’d concentrated on a couple of things and maybe allowed the geniuses aboard to work on figuring stuff out through deliberate deduction rather than panicked dialogue.

It feels like they threw a classic opportunity away in their desire to give an effects and exposition dump. If they’d trusted the cast more, perhaps some mood – any mood – could have been set by the amazing actors they have.

It’s also a detriment to the brand Cloverfield that two of the three films are almost worthless for repeat viewing at regular speed. Sure we can see all sorts of cross references to Slushies, satellites and J.J. Abrams grandfather. That kind of chore is best served for single guys living in their mom’s basement, though.

Give it a watch, knowing what it could be is overwhelmed by what it is forced to be.

(** out of *****)

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