I’d say this was a pleasant surprise, but then I saw the movie itself.
The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) is a Netflix sci-fi/horror film set in the Cloverfield universe directed by Julius Onah. It stars Gug Mbatha-Raw as Hamilton, an astronaut on the Shepard space station. Orbiting an Earth currently starved of electricity, Hamilton and her international team including Commander Kiel (David Oyelowo), Schmidt (Daniel Bruhl), Mundy (Chris O’Dowd), Volko (Aksel Hennie) and Tam (Ziyi Zhang) aim to perfect an experimental energy source only for it to have a dimension-breaking consequences.
Its not a good sign when the amazing marketing/no marketing at all is more compelling than the final product itself. A thoroughly disappointing follow-up to 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Cloverfield Paradox is the first major misstep in this steadily expanding universe – which is a shame considering the incredible way Netflix just dropped this film out of nowhere.
The film does initially start off somewhat strongly. It presents a political climate that doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility and begins to experiment with a premise that has massive potential. However as the film goes on all this potential is slowly suffocated by cliche after cliche as Paradox copies from every other sci-fi/horror film under the sun until it finally ends with a whimper of a dull, predictable climax. The film is not devoid of imagination – some of the more horror-themed elements of the Shepard’s voyage is suitably creepy and clever – but ultimately it can’t escape the asteroid field of cliches hitting its bow on every side. Its a shame considering in more assured hands (funnily enough like Cloverfield Lane‘s Dan Trachtenberg) this could’ve been rather original and intelligent genre fare. But instead we’re left with the scraps from much much better movies.
Paradox does however boast a rather strong cast, even if they suffer from some haphazard/non-existent character development. Each crew member is plainly drawn in broad, stereotypical tropes and aside from protagonist Hamilton we never get much of a chance to get to know them. That being said, O’Dowd, Bruhl and a few others do their best to elevate the mediocre material to something more entertaining and they usually succeed. Mbatha-Raw at the very least has an interesting arch that isn’t particularly original but does give the audience something to latch onto emotionally, even if everything around the character isn’t particularly compelling.
I was ready to sing this movie’s praises much like I did Cloverfield Lane. A surprise release for a film in a universe I’m already invested in, The Cloverfield Paradox just had to be decent for me to call it a success. But instead I’m left with the sneaking suspicion Paramount only sold this film to get it off their hands and I just witnessed a world brimming with possibility deliver on absolutely none of it. A solid start, some good performances and a few interesting horror elements means this isn’t a total bridge-burner, but it is going to make me a little more hesitant of the title Cloverfield going forward.
General Audiences: Meh
Film Buffs: Meh