Film Review: The Cloverfield Paradox

The Cloverfield Paradox is an abysmal disaster of a film that brings nothing new to the genre and literally can’t figure out what kind of film it is from scene to scene.

The latest entry in the now three film deep Cloverfield anthology series, this adventure into the sci-fi/genre playground takes us to space above the Cloverfield Station. A crew of six is trying to get an endless energy machine up and running to solve the world’s energy crisis, but when the particle accelerator finally reaches functionality, it causes an accident onboard and the crew becomes stranded with seemingly no path back home.

Now, that is the super spoiler free synopsis of the film and is more than just about anyone knew about the film before this afternoon. Dropping on Netflix, hours after the reveal of its existence to the majority of the public in a Super Bowl ad, the release of this film is the dream for the Cloverfield model, but the kind remarks have to stop there.

I can not oversell how terrible this film is.

I would love to watch every film this way, with this known a cast and budget, produced by a major studio (who sold the rights to Netflix instead of releasing it themselves), knowing nothing and then being able to immediately go and see it in the theater, but it becomes pretty quickly clear something is off in The Cloverfield Paradox. Directed by Julius Onah and written by Oren Uziel and Doug Jung, this creative team made a mess of a movie. Stuffed with genre clichés, riddled with horrible dialogue, editing that seems to be trying to hide the unusable and dull footage that was shot, everything in this film feels shoddy.

The Cloverfield Paradox never finds a rhythm because it is literally guided by no rules, with anything seemingly able to happen with little to any conversation or thought as to why things are happening the way they are. There are some big ideas to ruminate on here, but the film never stops for more than a moment to do so, if ever, instead it is more concerned about getting to the next supposedly clever bit or beat it thinks it has, leaving everything that came before it in the dust; except Chekhov’s plastic gun, that comes back. This constant ADD addled script is even represented visually in the film, as the lead, Hamilton, bounds from scene to scene through the hallways of this space station, looking ridiculous as she pumps her fists in the most awkward running I’ve seen in some time; sorry Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

I can’t tell you how many times I was asking myself, what the fuck is happening in this film.

I understand they are put in a crazy situation, but the film is constantly telling you what the characters are thinking and you are just sitting there like, “Well, that doesn’t make any fucking sense.” There is no nuance or trust in the audience to just take in what is happening and go along for the ride, something both of the previous two films were great at, as everything in Paradox feels endlessly contrived and manipulated. People have answers to two-year old problems out of nowhere, they somehow figure out what is happening to them, but they never bother to show or inform us how, plus, there is a line of communication that is established in the film through a trusty pen that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. I could go on, but, Gah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And that is just the plot, the tone of the film is just as big a mess, as it does nothing to establish our characters relationship to one another, except Hamilton and her husband, who don’t ever get to speak to each other again after the first three scenes of the movie (Slight Spoilers: Why did we need to flashback to earth by the way? Those scenes added no stakes to what was happening on the station until the film’s final moments, and the whole payoff of the final shot didn’t need any other set up outside it being a Cloverfield movie.). We don’t care about anyone, or if they care about anyone, or really know if they care about one another. The two years they spend together is montaged under the opening credits and is mostly spent focusing on Hamilton. A game of foosball isn’t going to make me care about the bond between a couple of characters for another hour and a half. The script also doesn’t give a talented cast anything to do but try to wade through their awful dialogue, while also trying to figure out what the tone of the scene they are currently in is supposed to be. Chris O’Dowd knows he’s supposed to be funny, and even has a couple funny lines, but when they are woven in with everyone else acting super serious with no delicate touch to the timing in the editing, well, it ends up not being funny.

Gosh, I could go on and on, but I’m rambling.

Long story short, don’t waste your time on this film. I was a big fan of the previous two Cloverfield films, but The Cloverfield Paradox has really poisoned the well of good faith J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot has built since that first trailer ten years ago. I don’t know how they let this movie see the light of day. Yes, a cast with the aforementioned Raw and O’Dowd, plus Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Brühl, David Oyelowo, Zhang Ziyi and John Ortiz is strong and there are a couple of kernels of cleverness in this film, but the execution, filmmaking and the end results are baffling bad. I was laughing at the film by the end as it was supposed to be nailing it final most dramatic moments.

An early, and strong, front-runner for worst film of the year. It will be tough to bottom.

*I did enjoy Bear McCreary’s score! Even if didn’t make sense a lot of the time.

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