The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) – Review.

*** Containers Mild Spoilers ***

The Cloverfield Paradox was a film with a lot of expectation heaped upon it without really that much in the way of hype or warning.

Originally due to be released much earlier with an original production starting in 2012, the film was formerly titled God Particle, with Julius Onah’s movie having no connection at all to the Cloverfield universe. Much like the previous entry, 10 Cloverfield Lane, it was an already developed story that was then adopted by J.J. Abrams’ studio Bad Robot to become part of their now shared universe.

Paramount were at the time announced as being the distribution company for the film, but throughout last year it appeared that rumoured production problems were a major factor and with multiple release dates being announced and then cancelled, it seemed that the movie may not be the hidden gem that many had predicted it would be.

At the beginning of 2018, stories started to circulate that Netflix may be taking on distribution of the movie instead, but again this was merely speculation with no official statement from the streaming service until a few days ago during the Super Bowl, when Netflix advertised what we now know to be The Cloverfield Paradox during this most sought after and expensive advertisement slot. Not only would it be streaming the movie to its subscribers, but the movie would be available to watch right after the game had finished!

In world full of teaser trailers, months of social media campaigns and extensive marketing, Netflix totally flipped the paradigm on how you release a major movie and for that you have to commend them. They have essentially taken the reigns on how a movie such as this can be released, but as exciting as this idea is, it’s success is of course ultimately dependent upon whether the movie is any good.

The Cloverfield Paradox tells the story of a group of astronauts assembled from around the world and sent on a mission to space to harness a massive energy source surrounding the earth’s atmosphere, after our planet had been plunged into an energy crisis. The movie instantly sets out its stall to be compared to the likes of Alien and Event Horizon, with its claustrophobic atmosphere and the dynamic of an assembly of disparate crew members forced to work together in close confines, despite their differing personalities. This is one element the film does well with a strong cast of well rounded characters. Devoid of a clearly defined leader, with several of the crew seemingly competent of taking the role should they need to, the film ultimately settles upon Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) as its central character and this allows the story to also show her husband Michael’s story (Roger Davies) back on earth during her mission.
This leads to the first real connection with the original Cloverfield movie, with disastrous events unfolding back on the planet at the same time as disaster strikes the space mission.

Some fans of the original may get some service from this, but I actually found it a bit of a distraction from the main storyline. Having enjoyed the original film immensely, I felt that the earth-based scenes added nothing to enhance the narrative. Whereas the original made good use of the Jaws ethos of not revealing the monster too early, by using clever camera angles and point of view shots, the same technique in this third instalment seems almost redundant in its employment. The viewer presumably already knows what is lurking in the smoke-filled, shadowy sky’s, so why not show it? A scene featuring an underground bunker which should have been a clever nod to 10 Cloverfield Lane just seemed rather forced.

With the station sustaining heavy damage and thrown into an unknown area of space, which later is found out to be a parallel universe, the crew struggles with the fact that the Earth beneath them is a planet at war, due to their alternate universe counterparts’ failure. Things on board take a further strange turn when a newly located member of crew named Jensen (Elizabeth Debicki) from the “alternative station” is found aboard their vessel with a warning about her missions reasons for failure, and instantly harbouring feelings of distrust towards fellow crew member Schmidt (played by the always amazing Daniel Brul).

The strange events that follow the crew’s attempts to return to their universe vary from tense and traumatic to downright comical. One scene in particular is bizarre to say the least, with a crew member losing an arm, only for the limb to seemingly take on a life of its own even going so far as to communicate via written text! Whilst films of a similar ilk such as the aforementioned Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing have themselves included some moments of ultra dark comedy, I think most will struggle to give a pass to a scene that would feel more at home in The Addam’s Family.

There are some good points to The Cloverfield Paradox. It looks great and the cast all provide solid enough performances, but you can’t help but think that there was a much better film that perhaps got lost along the way. Films such as Daniel Espinosa’s Life (2017) have perhaps stolen a step from The Cloverfield Paradox and this could well be why the film changed its direction during production.

Netflix’s promise in the solitary promo of its latest acquisition, teased that it will provide answers to how the original film’s events came to be and yet the last scene leaves the viewer with yet more questions than answers. For the sake of those who have yet to see The Cloverfield Paradox, it’s impossible to address this gripe without spoiling the ending.

There is a possibility that more films in the series will follow and perhaps more answers will come at a later date. Perhaps we may even see Bad Robot and Netflix strike a distribution deal to market such a venture in a similar vein to Netflix’s Black Mirror series, which is itself a series of separate stories, loosely contained within the same universe. That said, after seeing both The Cloverfield Paradox and its predecessor both fail to match the standard set by the original, maybe it’s best that they leave it at that before the legacy of the brilliant 2008 film is further tarnished.

Film ‘89 Verdict – 5.5/10

The Cloverfield Paradox is available on Netflix now (regional variances may apply).