To put it bluntly, The Cloverfield Paradox is a generic sci-fi romp that abuses its connection to the Cloverfield universe. There’s little merit in the way it attempts to link into the actual monster universe built up by J.J. Abrams and his crew, offering pieces of fan service for what feels like an unnecessarily contrived sequel. Much of the magic that made the previous two Cloverfield films so intriguing is gone, replaced with cookie-cutter characters, a misplaced setting, and a genuine lack of surprise behind its big “reveals”.
The Cloverfield Paradox takes place several years into the future, and revolves around the crew of a space station that launches into orbit in order to fix a dwindling energy problem on Earth. As you might expect, things don’t go according to plan, and the crew must now face an entirely different, almost otherworldly issue.
For fear of spoiling anything, I’ll refrain from mentioning too much about the plot. However, it’s also a bit tricky for me to tackle exactly what the film does right and very wrong without delving into the grit of the story. The concept is unforgivably unoriginal, especially for a film that touts itself as the next big Cloverfield film. The originality and creative spark behind the previous two films is completely missing from this iteration, presenting a rather bleak and uninspired sci-fi flick that can’t decide if it wants to take itself seriously or not.
Fans of the Cloverfield franchise might find a few Easter eggs sprinkled in the film very enticing, but it fails to justify its existence. Every important plot point that seemingly links The Cloverfield Paradox to its predecessors is brushed over so quickly, that it almost feels like an afterthought; like the film began as an entirely different movie initially before someone on the production team had the bright idea to turn it into a Cloverfield sequel. Because of its connection to the franchise, the film suffers tremendously in trying to appeal to the fans while not offering enough concrete links. One could argue that the film intentionally leaves vital plot points up in the air for dissection afterwards, but in theorizing the endless possibilities of what each event means, it actually exposes a huge flaw with the film itself; consistency.
The Cloverfield Paradox can’t seem to ride on one tone, often bouncing between being a sequel in one moment, then reverting back to generic science fiction horror the next. There’s a notable lack of consistency in the way the film is structured. Events seem to happen out of nowhere that begin with enough promise, but is never addressed again, leaving a lot open to interpretation. Films like Prisoners or even its predecessor, 10 Cloverfield Lane, brilliantly manage to intentionally leave questions open to interpretation that warrants constructive discussions, but The Cloverfield Paradox might warrant more angry, confusing discussions about how poorly it goes about not answering any of the big questions it asks. It’s very frustrating, to be honest.
One thing that the film does get right is the performances. Everyone seems to be doing a good job with what they’re given, and no one performance can be singled out as bad. The characters have good chemistry and bounce banter off one another naturally, almost feeling as if the dialogue was ad-libbed. The special effects also deserve praise. It’s a gorgeous film from both a directing and cinematography point, using the suffocating confines of space and the extraordinary grandeur of the world to great effect. At times, it reminded me of films like Gravity, where the sound and visual effects were so accurate, they immersed viewers' senses into space itself.
Overall, The Cloverfield Paradox is a disappointingly poor attempt to seem more intelligent and introspective than it actually is. The exciting connections to the Cloverfield universe that we were promised come off as forced and inexplicably confusing. The film struggles to find its footing within the lore of the extended universe, but even as an isolated, standalone piece of science fiction, it simply cannot hold itself up at all. The performances are solid and the visual effects are great, but unfortunately that can’t save the film from being a mess; a blight on what could’ve been a promising, great franchise.
Writer. Enthusiast of all things geek. Legend has it he completed Final Fantasy VII without a memory card.
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5 February 2018
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