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Brilliant casting is overshadowed by a muddled mix of genres and storylines that scratch more heads than sci-fi itches in The Cloverfield Paradox.
Brilliant casting is overshadowed by a muddled mix of genres and storylines that scratch more heads than sci-fi itches in The Cloverfield Paradox.
All Critics (128)
| Top Critics (20)
| Fresh (25)
| Rotten (103)
While not delivering what the advertisements seem to promise, is still a great couple of hours of entertainment that does not have to depend on being gross or gory to succeed.
One of the big problems with Paradox is that 85 percent of the film is explanation, leaving very little time for character development.
There are humanist bits and chunks of "Interstellar" and "Arrival," though in order to set up another chapter of this loosely assembled saga of woe, "The Cloverfield Paradox" eventually, dutifully gets around to a nonhuman adversary in close-up.
Its twists feel routine, its narrative spine limp and its conclusion especially rushed.
The fastest turnaround from must-see event to disappointing dud in history.
A kluge of bad science and worse science fiction clichés, it tries to be atmospheric and scary but succeeds only at being frustrating and tedious.
Paradox feels like a random assortment of indifferently mounted space-thriller and body-horror sequences that have been pulverized into an unintelligible narrative slurry.
It has that kind of heart pounding intensity in action that just goes from the beginning of the film right through to the end and even the moments that the movie pauses.
The movie doesn't score major points for originality, but it's a good time nonetheless for those of us who enjoy seeing bad things done to Nazi types.
I complain about folks not putting their money where their mouth is. However, Overlord, penned by Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith and directed by Julius Avery, is everything we say we want in our mainstream multiplex fare.
Conceptually, there's something to both Paradox and the overall loosely-connected Cloverfield universe. Unfortunately, the bulk of the movie's runtime fails to capitalize on virtually any of that promise.
The decision to make this a Cloverfield movie at the last minute didn't make the movie any better. In fact, it probably made it worse.
The crew of the Enterprise accidentally splits the space/time continuum, are transported to the other side of the galaxy and must now struggle to return ... or at least that's what this plays like: an episode of Star Trek. And not one of the better episodes. Kind of one of those so-so ones. Meh.
The most interesting part of The Cloverfield Paradox might be the film's release. Following the model of secrecy and subterfuge from producer J.J. Abrams, this was originally a script called God Particle by Oren Uziel (Shimmer Lake). It was reworked by Doug Jung (Star Trek Beyond) to meld it into the ongoing Cloverfield universe. It was originally scheduled for theatrical release in February, and then pushed back to April, and then it was scaled back to being released directly through Netflix. The first time the public saw a frame of this movie was during a high-profile Super Bowl spot that advertised it would be available for viewing as soon as the big game was over (the ad spot cost $4 million, or about one-sixth of the film's modest budget). The Cloverfield Paradox is an intermittently entertaining film with some nice visuals, curious moments, and a bevy of good actors looking frantic and perplexed in space. It's also a bit of a storytelling misfire and an underwhelming addition to the larger Cloverfield mythology.
High in space, a team of scientists is testing a cutting-edge particle accelerator that, if functioning, will provide abundant and renewable power for an Earth that is plunged on the brink of a world war thanks to depleted energy resources. Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is one of the scientists and wondering if she will ever get back to Earth and see her husband again. Then one fateful day, the accelerator works but then goes on the fritz, slamming everyone around the station. When they come to they realize that the Earth and moon are missing and they are adrift. That's not the last of the peculiarities. A woman (Elizabeth Dibecki) is found inside the station, connected to the wiring. Where did this woman come from, where are the scientists, and what happened to the Earth?
The Cloverfield Paradox is never going to be confused as great sci-fi, but it can be good enough depending upon the tastes of the individual viewer. The opening very succinctly establishes the stakes of the mission as well as the toll of the repeated failures. Once the station does its wonky thing and the Earth vanishes, that's when it hooked me. Are they in a different part of the universe? Did they accidentally wipe out the Earth? These are pertinent and intriguing mysteries deserving of attention. The visuals in the movie are slick and well lit by cinematographer Dan Mindel (Star Wars: Force Awakens), who ignores the old staple of the poorly lit space corridors throughout the film. The actors are all well cast and provide the kind of performances that make you care enough. Mbatha-Raw (Black Mirror's "San Junipero") is a terrific lead. She's strong, smart, but also given a tragic back-story that informs her decision-making when the weirdness hits. Dibecki (Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2) is primarily directed to be a statuesque mystery. Chris O'Dowd (Molly's Game) is the comic relief that doesn't wear out his welcome. None of the characters do anything that stupid. It's just enough that you might feel sorry for some of them when they eventually perish. There are workable elements throughout the movie that will hold your attention and curiosity.
It's shortly after its inciting incident of being mysteriously vanished that you start to realize the deeper story problems inherent with The Cloverfield Paradox. The central mystery (where are we? what happened to the Earth?) is enough of a hook but doesn't allow for much in the way of a clear-cut throughline of how to uncover these answers. The clues that occur throughout the second act serve as almost random points of weirdness that rarely add up to anything significant. Little things like missing worms, the missing gyroscopic GPS drive, and a crawling arm serve as points of peculiarity but they feel disconnected from anything else happening. It's during this stretch of the film where the film feels like anything can happen and not in a good way. The strange occurrences don't follow any rhyme or reason even after it's revealed what is causing them. They just happen because, most likely, somebody thought it would be cool or unexpected. This will only get you so far in plotting unless to can tie events back to character. The resulting explanation is a shaky experiment-gone-wrong that plays out like an unmemorable Star Trek episode, with the crew discerning what their new reality is and why. If you read about the original screenplay, when it was called God Particle and unrelated to anything Cloverfield, there was a lot more hard sci-fi intrigue and a paranoia plot reminiscent of the breakdown in civility in the flawed but serviceable thriller It Comes at Night. It's hard not to have the opinion that the original screenplay by Uziel was made more generic.
The third act goes all-in on the action heroics and survival thrills, pitting characters against one another for the well being of their homes. What once began as a trippy, reality-distorted sci-fi film becomes a lazy climax where one character stalks corridors and casually shoots people. It's a conclusion that feels too expected and rote for all of the weirdness that transpired earlier. It's not quite the steep crash that was the final act for Danny Boyle's otherwise engaging 2007 film Sunshine, but it's certainly a less interesting way to tie up your movie. There are some fun set pieces. O'Dowd interacting with his missing appendage is a funny almost buddy comedy. Some of the deaths are visually interesting as they make use of the cold vacuum of space in killer ways. There's a nice climactic moment involving a character coming to terms with his or her personal grief that feels moderately earned though still facile enough to be unmovable. It feels like another in a series of checklists as far as what kind of character arcs, set pieces, twists and turns are to be expected from a mid-range sci-fi thriller. I thought last year's Life did all of this better and with more style and nasty menace. If you're going to watch a derivative space station thriller, at least make it one where the filmmakers have more of a plan from scene-to-scene and a genuine appreciation for their source material.
Now let's talk about what exactly makes this a Cloverfield movie. Much like 2016's agile contained thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane, this is a follow-up where the Cloverfield elements feels inelegantly grafted on. I suppose the use of the giant particle accelerator in space may have opened a hole in space-time for giant monsters to come through, but I thought it had been previously established as an alien invasion? Regardless, the only real storyline that tenuously connects the events in space to the larger Cloverfield universe is the storyline on the ground with Hamilton's husband, Michael (Roger Davies). He's recovering from whatever went wrong in space, which has resulted in cataclysmic damage across the Earth. He finds a lost and scared little girl and takes her under his protection, swearing to reach out to her family. They take refuge in a shelter. Every time the movie cuts back to Michael trying to reach his wife, or anyone really, and pacing nervously, I was getting bored. Who cares about this little kid when we have realty-bending mysteries up in space? If we don't know what's going on topside, or if the movie refuses to entertain some kind of accessible mystery, then every moment spent away from the space station is a moment wasted. The concluding conversation Michael has over the phone is simply there to remind the audience once again that this is indeed a Cloverfield movie, with an obvious visual reminder that feels too late.
The Cloverfield Paradox is another Cloverfield movie where the Cloverfield elements feel like the least interesting part. I don't know if this is exactly the best plan for extending this franchise. With 10 Cloverfield Lane, I felt the gnawing suspense of an effectively developed contained thriller. With The Cloverfield Paradox, the space mystery and its ensuing twists and turns feel too arbitrary and disconnected to have more than their immediate impact. It's a movie that sadly gets less interesting every moment it marches closer to its generic action-thriller conclusion. Still, there are moments here that will entertain and I'm happy that Netflix is becoming a breeding ground for the mid-range sci-fi films that Hollywood no longer seems willing to give space for. If you're a fan of the Cloverfield series or high-concept space thrillers, there may be enough here to warrant a viewing and justify your time. I look forward to this model continuing, the next Cloverfield movie having even less to do with the Cloverfield universe. Maybe we're only years away from an Oscar-bait film about overcoming adversity set amidst World War II and Cloverfield monsters. It's like a recipe: just add Cloverfield monsters (or are they aliens?).
Nate's Grade: C+
The fact that Cloverfield even became a loose franchise boggles my mind. Back in 2008 when the original film was released, I saw it as a cool alien invasion flick with secrets that it wanted to keep hidden. After rumors that a sequel would eventually arrive, I don't believe 10 Cloverfield Lane is what they were expecting. That being said, 10 Cloverfield Lane was a superior film in terms of tension, as well as the loose connection it made to the original movie. Now, without any real promotion, The Cloverfield Paradox has arrived on Netflix. Being the third instalment in this loose franchise, taking us to space is yet another thing that I don't think anyone expected before reading the synopsis. Nevertheless, a new sequel has arrived, and the biting questions everyone seems to be asking are whether or not it has a closer connection to the first and whether or not it's a good film. So, let's dive in and see if either of those things are true.
The rest of this review isn't going to spoil anything about the movie, but since there hasn't been any real promotion, some people may consider the slightest plot detail to be a spoiler, so you've been warned.
Aside from a few references throughout the first act of the film, this movie stands on its own as its own movie, just like 10 Cloverfield Lane did. That being said, there are some pretty obvious connections it makes as the movies go along, but I won't discuss those any further in this review. The Cloverfield Paradox follows a crew of scientists across space as they try to solve an entry crisis on Earth. Making a few mistakes during this process, they're sent to an alternate dimension and discover that strange things have begun to happen. That's the basic premise, and hearing that alone would've excited me enough to buy a ticket to this in theatres, but I can also see why it went straight to Netflix.
Although 10 Cloverfield Lane was a very low-budget movie, pretty much taking place in just a couple rooms, this is very much in the same vein, but with a few solid special effects added in. The feel of this movie definitely feels smaller scale than even the original, which was made to feel cheap and realistic, so this is why I found Netflix to be the proper release. Setting that aside, I was pretty impressed by the performances here and the surprises that this film delivers are worth the wait.
This film isn't going to win any awards, and quite frankly isn't nearly as good as the previous two instalments, but from comedic moments to genuinely questionable scenarios that constantly presented themselves, to vague references to what's happening on Earth, to interesting characters being thrown into the mix halfway through the runtime, I found myself enjoying this movie, for the most part. It wasn't too long and kept up a nice pace, even though the plot points felt very, very familiar.
Many people will be frustrated that it's not a direct sequel to either of the previous films, and while I'm okay with it not being that way, I also found myself puzzled as to why the story felt so distant, and yet they found reasons to pull aspects of the original into it. On top of that, aspects of pretty much every single movie that ever took place on a space shuttle are present here and you can see a lot of twists coming from a mile away.
In the end, this works as a solid movie to watch on Netflix, but it does nothing new for this franchise and instead of expanding things, I found this third instalment to be one that chose to close a few doors that I was hoping to eventually explore further at some point in the future. The story is pretty generic, the direction is good enough, the performances are solid, and the tie-ins are cool, but ultimately predictable. The Cloverfield Paradox will be a nice watch for fans of the first film, but it's pretty average when looking at it as a film in its own right.
While it admittedly borrows elements from the well known entries of the space horror genre, the third film in the Cloverfield universe still comes off as fresh thanks to decent special effects and motivated actors. It's also shocking how many answers it actually offers, especially to the original film. The new one is fast, exciting and fun, if you are fine with ignoring some plot holes or techno babble. Decent entertainment either way.
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