Those of us who watched Super Bowl LII Sunday night got quite the treat. Not only was the game exciting overall, but we also got a plethora of new trailers. Among them, Netflix’s The Cloverfield Paradox, the third film in the Cloverfield franchise (or “Cloververse”). Not only did Netflix drop the trailer, but after the big game, the movie was available to stream right away: exclusively on Netflix.
The Cloverfield Paradox, formerly known as God Particle, centers around a team of astronauts on Cloverfield Station, who are testing a new device that promises unlimited energy worldwide. When a test goes wrong, the crew finds the Earth’s suddenly vanished beneath them. They must figure out what went wrong or die. Things get interesting when strange dimensional abnormalities present themselves on board the station.
In concept, Paradox is fantastic. It’s why I’ve been following it since I first heard rumbles of this “God Particle.” After 10 Cloverfield Lane, I was on board with whatever film came next in the series, as I enjoyed their Twilight Zone, Black Mirror-esque qualities. It’s unfortunate that I came out of Paradox last night sorely disappointed.
Much like with Netflix’s Bright, I don’t feel like I wasted my time with Paradox. At the same time, however, there are some huge glaring issues that keep it from being anything beyond “good”. First, the script faults in many aspects. Painful exposition and needless jokes kill the tension and pacing. Certain plot elements are introduced and then seemingly forgotten. The B-plot, centering around what seems to be the original Cloverfield disaster, is pointless, and the cuts to and from it feel janky. As bad as the script is, the execution of it is handled decently. The direction is okay and when there’s real tension, it feels pretty intense (one scene reminds me of the autopsy from John Carpenter’s The Thing, but not as good). The problem is just inherently in the writing. The characters are dumb and make dumb choices, the connections to the rest of the Cloververse feel forced. Save for a few lines, when there’s humor, it feels too on-the-nose and unfunny.
There’s some good, though, that keeps the film from being totally abysmal. The aforementioned direction manages to turn a bad script halfway decent. Despite a good cast, the actors struggle to make bring decency to the dialogue. There are a few good scares as well in the first half, but it feels like it bursts the dam far too quickly. The rest of Paradox devolves into one silly contrived moment after another, some of which (including a bit with a severed arm) happen and never come up again. Mild spoilers: I’m surprised there’s a literal Chekhov’s Gun in this movie when it seems to forget most other things that happen throughout it.
It’s truly interesting and something to note, however, that a movie of this caliber (with the cast and J.J. Abrams having a hand in it) was kept under as tight of wraps as it was for so long. It’s a feat to have the first trailer and film launch within two/three hours of each other. If the Cloververse is remembered for anything, it’ll be its unique marketing approaches that each film has had, and the ARGs (alternate reality games) that have followed them. It doesn’t excuse the film but is important to note nonetheless.
The Cloverfield Paradox Overall: 2.5/5
Overall, it’s a shame that The Cloverfield Paradox ended up the way it did. There’s a great concept here, muddled by the messy plot and character development. The characters are flat and sometimes it imitates Danny Boyle’s Sunshine a bit too much. At the end of it all, however, if you’re a fan of the franchise there’s some fun to be had here. But if you’re looking for a good sci-fi or a great movie (ignoring the Cloverfield aspect), I can’t help but suggest Sunshine over this. It’s a much better version of essentially the same story.
The Cloverfield Paradox is streaming now on Netflix.