THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX

Cloverfield was a perfectly fine, entertaining found footage monster movie. That’s all it ever was, and all it ever should have been. We never needed a sequel, and we certainly didn’t need it to start a connected universe with other films… yet here we are. In 2016, eight years after the original’s release, 10 Cloverfield Lane was suddenly unveiled and due for a release in just two months! You mean a secret Cloverfield sequel was in production this entire time and it’s suddenly coming out? It was certainly exciting, but at the time we were all blissfully ignorant of what was really going on with this new Cloverfield “franchise”. 

WARNING: There are some spoilers for The Cloverfield Paradox ahead. Read at your own risk, or go watch it now on Netflix, and come on back to see what I thought! 

In The Cloverfield Paradox, Earth’s energy resources have been nearly exhausted, bringing many countries to the brink of war. With no options left, the international space agencies come together to send a team of astronauts onto the Cloverfield station to test the Shepard particle accelerator. With hopes of the Shepard providing an infinite energy resource, they test the machine for years to no avail. When they finally get it to work, it overloads the space station, and before they know it, the Earth has disappeared! Not only that, but plenty of other strange and unnatural phenomena start occurring on the station, leading the crew to believe they’ve been transported to another dimension with seemingly no means of escape. 

Oh yeah, and this all causes giant monsters to appear on Earth for some reason. Remember that this is supposed to be a Cloverfield movie? 

Does it sound like a Cloverfield film? Well, no, but neither did 10 Cloverfield Lane. That’s because these aren’t really Cloverfield films. The reason 10 Cloverfield Lane devolved into nonsense during its final act is because it started off as a film called The Cellar. When Paramount realized they didn’t know how to market the film and that it may not make a lot of money, they brought on Cloverfield creator JJ Abrams to connect the film to that universe. So yeah, these are just completely original concepts that are co-opted by JJ Abrams and Paramount to be turned into a Cloverfield film to give it some sort of “brand” recognition. What we basically have here is an anthology series of loosely connected sci-fi stories. While it’s successfully been done before (primarily in television with stuff like The Twilight Zone), there’s nothing that feels unifying about this Cloverfield universe. The original film is a found footage monster movie, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a character driven thriller, and now we have a generic space thriller with The Cloverfield Paradox. 

It’s nothing more than hodgepodge of undeveloped ideas at this point, and it couldn’t be more evident with this new installment, which is just a hodgepodge of undeveloped ideas. The film was originally titled God Particle and I’m assuming once Paramount saw how bland and mediocre it was, they scrambled to make it the next installment in the “franchise”. Well, as 10 Cloverfield Lane demonstrated that suddenly connecting your film to a larger universe doesn’t make it any better, The Cloverfield Paradox solidifies this. It feels more like even more of an afterthought here than last time, with voiceovers, visual effects, and reshot scenes tying this to the Cloverfield name in the most tenuous way possible. It’s laughably obvious when a lot of your connections are sometimes just words on a screen that could be added in post. 

At least 10 Cloverfield Lane was a legitimately great thriller film until those last 15 minutes. Even without the added connection, The Cloverfield Paradox is just a total bore. It’s basically Alien without the alien. A bunch of people are stuck on a space station while horrific things happen to them. With no physical threat, you have to get more creative, and the filmmakers do decent job with playing around with the alternate dimensions. An arm severing itself and then writing a message? A guy filled with worms? All neat stuff on its own, but when taken in the context of the film, a lot of it doesn’t make sense. Sure, you can say, “Well, it’s an alternate dimension, so things are different and weird,” but something a bit more thematic and consistent would have been welcome. Because it’s all over the place, there were some laugh out loud moments for me, each time not sure if I was even supposed to be laughing. 

It could have been salvaged with a solid story and character foundation, but all that falls into the same “interesting idea with no development” trap. The main character is Ava (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), whose children were killed in a house fire, causing strain on her and her husband Michael’s (Roger Davies) marriage. In the alternate dimension, she learns that her children are still alive and she can once again have a happy family. This is supposed to be the emotional core, but beyond two sequences later on in the film, there’s nothing really there to make us feel any emotion. It’s too busy juggling other ideas and characters for anything to have any meaning. At least the bland characters are played by a great cast, but they’re really given nothing to do here. 

If The Cloverfield Paradox was just released as God Particle, then it would have just been a forgettable pseudo-Alien clone with underdeveloped ideas, tonal inconsistencies, bland characters, and shockingly awful visual effects. Since we now have a dubious connection to a “franchise”, it makes it come off as somewhat embarrassing. Is Paramount truly this risk averse that they won’t even let original films stay the way they are? Everything has to have brand recognition, even in the slimmest way possible? For eight years, Cloverfield was just a monster movie. Now, it’s a synonym for a Hollywood studio trying to desperately make a buck any way they can. Can’t wait to see the next thing they ruin. 

4/10

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