The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) – Review

A shoehorned, frustratingly messy entry in a great franchise. 

The Cloverfield movies have always been shrouded in mystery. The first film, Cloverfield, had trailers which were initially released without a title. The second, 10 Cloverfield Lane, seemed to drop out of nowhere, and from the outset was entirely different than the first. Whereas the first film was a found-footage horror, sci-fi monster flick, the second was a psychological thriller with subtle connections to the events of the earlier entry.

A few weeks ago, news emerged that work on the fourth Cloverfield movie had already finished. Here’s the problem… where’s the third entry? Well our question was answered during the Super Bowl, when a trailer for The Cloverfield Paradox dropped, with a staggering announcement that it would premiere immediately after the game on Netflix. A tantalising prospect indeed, but this blockbusting surprise is sadly not a pleasant one upon viewing.

Scientists orbiting the earth test a new device which, if functional, could provide unlimited energy. However the device transports them to an alternative reality, that seeks to destroy them in whatever way possible.

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© – Netflix

So what’s the connection to Cloverfield you ask? A fantastic question, that sadly the film doesn’t go out of it’s way to answer. The funny thing is, like 10 Cloverfield Lane, this production started off completely unrelated to the franchise whatsoever, but soon wore the House of Cloverfield banner when it was sold over. However, unlike the second entry, which was carefully sewn together and not only makes sense to include in the franchise, but is arguably a stronger entry than the first, The Cloverfield Paradox is a slice of incoherent space mediocrity, desperate to attach itself to the franchise’s umbilical cord, refusing to accept it simply can’t have spawned from that womb in the first place.

On Earth there is an energy crisis, which has led to war tensions – hence the need for a new source of energy. Up in space, they’re testing a particle accelerator for this very reason, although it carries a significant risk of unleashing “beasts” and “monsters” into the world. Shock-horror, when testing it, bad things happen.

Who’s at the hands of these horrors? A well-put together cast, including Daniel Bruhl, David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Chris O’Dowd. What’s the best thing to do with a great ensemble? Make them talk endlessly about nonsensical space jargon and argue with each other to petty extents, obviously. Although there are a few moments of genuine emotional connection, overall, they’re pawns in a derivative, underwhelming piece of fodder. They shuffle from scene-to-scene, reacting in a characteristically unnatural way to the chaos around them. The conflicts soon turn to panic, as they tend to in these space-chillers, but here it is so yawn-inducing and lacking in power to move an audience, it’s a shame that it is now tied to the franchise.

A rather disgusting incident with a ton of worms and a grisly power cut are among some of the more impressive moments, managing to evoke an ‘eww’ or a small gasp. But it’s hard to appreciate when as a fan of the franchise, you’re constantly trying to work out how it’s going to fit in – but the film continues to raise more questions than answers.

This surprise Netflix addition comes from a distinguished franchise, but like a paradox, no matter how hard you think about it, it will always be logically unacceptable. 

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

*Apologies if I seem to not understand the film, it’s because I don’t.

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