“The Cloverfield Paradox” Movie Review


     Some may not have noticed.  Others might not understand the magnitude of the decision.  But Netflix not so quietly created a completely new model for releasing a feature film this past Super Bowl Sunday, launching the unexpected premiere of “The Cloverfield Paradox” on their streaming service after the big game’s end.  In doing so, they effectively shocked the entire Hollywood and entertainment community, as it was thought the film would be released in theaters by Paramount, the home to the first two “Cloverfield” features, which include 2008’s found footage mega monster thriller “Cloverfield”, as well as 2016’s post apocalyptic bunker mystery “10 Cloverfield Lane”.  The new film, again produced by J.J. Abrams, brings the franchise into the harsh confines of space with a sort of astronauts trapped in a space station scenario whose visual cues will instantly remind filmgoers of the “Alien” franchise, as well as its many imitators, namely last year’s “Life” and 1997’s “Event Horizon”.

     From the onset, “The Cloverfield Paradox” presents a well designed and thought out setting for the characters to occupy.  Director Julius Onah moves his camera throughout a number of colorful and technologically advanced sets created by Production Designer Doug Meerdink, as the sounds of Bear McCreary’s score give the emotional push every film like this requires, resulting in the apparent look and feel of a high concept film.  Even the cast is filled with the kind of Oscar caliber thespians (David Oyelowo, Daniel Bruhl, Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and solid character actors (Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz, Ziyi Zhang) who one would normally assume have signed on after reading a script they felt would allow them to deliver the kind of stellar performances that grace each of their previous filmographies.  But unfortunately, that’s exactly where things begin to go downhill since Oren Uziel’s script delivers a clunky and often convoluted storyline that has no apparent connection to the other two films at all.

     In what appears to be a dystopian version of the present day, the planet Earth and its population have found itself in the midst of an energy crisis so severe that nations are prepared to go to war over a proper solution.  One of the few hopes of peace, as well as solving a problem that could potentially wipe out the human race, is the work of a small crew of scientists currently manning a space station hovering in orbit above Earth.  The perfectly diverse crew allows for a representative from each of the world’s most developed countries (We know this because each wears their country’s patch on their sleeve.), as they conduct a series of experiments with a new form of energy they call a “particle accelerator”.  Should they be successful, the thinking is they will have solved the crisis and will help restore order to the planet.  Fail, and life as we know it is over.  Seems like a nifty premise right?

     Actually, things delve into a completely different direction in the interest of allowing for a few cheap thrills and having a reason to start picking off each character one by one in much the same way we have seen in countless other films.  During a trial run of their new found source of energy, the experiment goes haywire, apparently sending the space station into another dimension that shares an alternate reality of the same crew, but under different circumstances.  Strange things then begin to happen.  Weird stuff like a guy whose arm is suddenly sucked into a metal wall in a hallway and when he is released, his arm is missing, but he feels no pain or shock.  Then, a few minutes later, the crew is amazed to see his arm dragging itself down the hall with an apparent mind of its own.  But no one reacts with any kind of urgency or horror you would think people should in this situation.  Instead, they just stand there with their mouths open as O’Dowd’s now one armed Irish scientist quips one liners designed for comic relief.

     There’s plenty more odd happenings the crew deals with in the middle half, but none of it adds up to anything other than the theory that the particle accelerator somehow combined their realities with another version of themselves .  Not to mention they are no longer orbiting Earth and need to find a way back before their respective countries go to war.  If anything, you would expect that a film with the word “Cloverfield’ in the title would at least have some sort of connection with the other two films, but instead “The Cloverfield Paradox” manages to muddy the waters even further and bares no resemblance to the storyline of either of the first two films.  Standing alone, the film plays as just another entry in a long line of films looking to capitalize on the success and creativity behind Ridley Scott’s “Alien”, neither succeeding in enhancing the genre nor does it break new ground in any way.  Maybe the entire stunt with Netflix announcing during the Super Bowl that a new feature film would be premiering as soon as the game was over, was merely a last ditch attempt to generate interest in something that would’ve certainly bombed at the actual box office.  At least this way we’ll never know.  GRADE: D