A Largely Unfulfilling & Disappointing Film
After its surprising announcement at last night’s Superbowl, Netflix Original The Cloverfield Paradox is the next entry in the Cloverfield universe and stands out from the other 2 films for all the wrong reasons. Set just before the original in 2008, Paradox’s plot is intriguing but lacks finesse, tight writing and consistent acting. Although the film does have its moments, they’re bogged down by a really poor script making it hard to ignore what a disappointing entry into the Cloverfield universe this is.
The story begins on Earth with Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Kiel (David Oyelowo) discussing a future energy crisis before the two characters are separated. With Hamilton on board the Cloverfield space station for over 2 years and Kiel stuck on Earth, the narrative switches perspectives between the two characters as the crew on board the Cloverfield try desperately to find a solution to the energy crisis. With all nations coming together on board the collaborative vessel, the characters spend most of their time working together to get a particle accelerator, named Shepard for some reason, to work. While experimenting, strange and frightening things begin occurring as a result of their work both on the space station and on Earth. Aiming to link this film into the first 2, Cloverfield Paradox introduces the idea of multiple dimensions and throws in ham-fisted references to the original film but the execution is clumsy and oftentimes more convoluted than it should be.
Although Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s acting as lead protagonist Hamilton is relatively good, many of the other characters are bland, emotionless and surprisingly poor in their roles. Mundy (Chris o’Dowd) suffers a horrific accident midway through the film and his nonchalant reaction to what happens is not just unbelievable, its borderline terrible, destroying what’s otherwise a pretty tense scene. Of course, some of the blame can be put on the script that never really explains any of the weird occurrences on board the space station and throws in questionable dialogue. Other characters monotonously deliver their lines and the tired cliché of presenting the Russian as the unlikable character from the start is another disappointing decision too.
Despite the issues with the plot and acting, there’s no denying that Cloverfield Paradox has a great visual design. The spaceship looks realistic, the colours are good and the scenes on Earth dark and cloaked in mystery. The dread inducing soundtrack gives an air of uneasiness on board the spaceship too and the various horror elements play out well, even if they do rely heavily on jump scares rather than atmospheric creepiness.
Those going into this with low expectations may love this film but for those looking for a smartly written sci-fi flick that answers some crucial questions about the Cloverfield universe, you won’t find it here. Much like Prometheus, Cloverfield Paradox expands an established universe and drip feeds answers to the burning questions while leaving a million more in its wake. JJ Abrams has written a script that just about ticks off the basic elements of the story but leaves enough gaps to make it a frustratingly unsatisfying watch. Of course, fans of the franchise will love these gaps and work tirelessly to fill them in with various theories and speculations but for everyone else, the lack of explanation for anything or a satisfying conclusion to this film may disappoint a fair few people. There are moments where Cloverfield Paradox shines and especially in the first half after the forced exposition, there’s some promise but its squandered in a largely unsatisfying and disappointing entry in the Cloverfield universe.