The Cloverfield Paradox, directed by Julius Onah, is very clearly a sci-fi script that has been repurposed and then shoehorned into the Cloverfield franchise. However, unlike the previous film in the franchise (10 Cloverfield Lane), this one hasn’t worked. With a generic, predictable plot, characters who seemingly go out of their way to defy logic, and an overall experience that feels cliché and unoriginal. The Cloverfield Paradox is the first definite misstep in what has been a really interesting franchise to follow and look forward too. So let’s breakdown all that the film attempts and see if there’s anything that makes it worth checking out.
With a severe energy crisis threatening the entire world, a group of scientists try desperately to solve the problem on a space station orbiting the Earth. If they fail, all out war is inevitable. But their most recent attempt leads to a clashing of realities and subsequent strange occurrences all throughout the station. They don’t know where they are or what’s happening, and they need to get home before everything is lost.
It’s in the film’s opening that something immediately felt off to me. Before its title card even appears on the screen, there was a pace to things and a handling of particular elements that just didn’t feel right. I didn’t know at that point that the film would never find a rhythm, or that it would fail to offer anything memorable or compelling, but I did know I was watching a film that was unsure of what it was.
It was the film’s plot and subsequent set up of intriguing questions that I was initially interested by – also the fact that I was excited and interested to see how the film would tie into the larger Cloverfield universe. But the film quickly loses those interesting elements, as story points unravel quickly, and questions receive predictable, uninteresting answers. My interest in the plot soon received the same response as everything else did in the film: I wasn’t interested by it anymore.
The element of film that from the very beginning was a lost cause for me: were the characters. The main protagonist, Ava Hamilton – played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw – is the only person to receive a fleshed-out personality – and it isn’t enough to make her a compelling person to connect yourself too. What drives Ava feels immediately contrived; it simply exists to try and desperately and unnaturally connect us to her – it never worked. There’s nothing else to any other character that makes you want to root for them or care about them, and Ava’s motivations and history never caused me to care about her either.
So, you have a main protagonist who I didn’t care about, and a space station full of people who are made up of stereotypical characteristics. They all have one note to play and never deviate from it. It’s a real waste of the talent that was employed (David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki are just a few examples) as they are unable to do anything to salvage their characters. I was so detached from them and I cared so little for them, that I actually found myself feeling relieved when some of them were killed off – and I felt that way because some of the characters are really tedious. They follow a predictable, annoying path and I found the quicker they got rid of some of the useless weight, the less irritating the experience – which is never how you want to feel about the characters your supposed to care about and root for.
And the reason I found a lot of the characters to be so annoying: was mainly down to the writing, which overall was shoddy and clashed with the aesthetic of the film. There are lines of dialogue that are so unnatural and there are story decisions that are so cliché, that you can’t help but roll your eyes. It’s also one of those tedious sci-fi films where the group of highly trained astronauts are incapable of applying logic to their decision-making (Alien: Covenant being a perfect example of that issue). There were so many times where they would do or say things that went completely against common sense and logical thinking. All so that the plot could move along in its haphazard state.
As an aside to the main review I wanted to add this little thought: I thought the 2017 film, Life (starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Fergusson and Ryan Reynolds) was going to turn out to be a secret Cloverfield film (and I wish that it had, despite it only being okay). The film is a damn sight better than this one, but more importantly, I think the story in that one would have far better connected into the Cloverfield franchise. Alas, that was not the case and instead we get Cloverfield Paradox. A film that did something that’s never been happened before (to me personally) …
For the first time ever, I didn’t enjoy a score done by Bear McCreary. I have loved his work since I first heard it in the 2004 show, Battlestar Galactica, and I really liked the atmosphere that his work brought to 10 Cloverfield Lane. But in this film, his score felt out-of-place. It clashed with a film that was already full of elements that were clashing. Perhaps my dislike of his score is more on the bad film and not his usually dependable talent – I’m not sure. All I do know is: is that I found the music in the film to at no points match or compliment what it was accompanying, nor did I ever find it to be particularly memorable – there are still scenes from 10 Cloverfield Lane that pop into my head because of the score that perfectly accompanied and elevated them. That’s how effective Bear McCreary’s work was in that film.
Here’s the thing with, The Cloverfield Paradox, and the Cloverfield franchise as a whole. I loved the way in which this film became available. To drop a trailer and then release the film that same night on Netflix is such an interesting experiment and quite refreshing in a film climate where we’re bombarded and overloaded with marketing that does a disservice to the film, more than anything else. Even though the film wasn’t good, that is in no way a result of how they chose to promote and release this film. In fact, I think more people will have seen this film because of the way in which it was marketed and released, than if it had just had a conventional release on the silver screen.
And I also hope that Bad Robot (J.J. Abrams’ production company) and Paramount continue this interesting marketing experiment with the Cloverfield franchise. It really does make things more interesting. What I would suggest though: is for them to be more diligent and cautious in the scripts/films they decide to repurpose to be a Cloverfield film. This Frankenstein like franchise will not last long if films like, The Cloverfield Paradox are the continued quality of experience. 10 Cloverfield Lane was a special and surprising hit – a hit that I loved so much it made it onto my list of favourite films in 2016.
But ultimately, The Cloverfield Paradox is not a good film. I would confidently and comfortably say that it is the worst film to come out with Cloverfield in the title – which is saying something, because despite it being an interesting film, the first Cloverfield film is okay at best. Hopefully the next Cloverfield film (which I believe is supposed to surface at some point in 2018) is better than this one and doesn’t feel like a misstep in this fun franchise experiment. I suppose only time will tell.
I DO NOT recommend, The Cloverfield Paradox. The film offers nothing new or interesting, and its ties to the original Cloverfield film are interesting but mostly flimsy and not very satisfying. The film is a disappointment for sure.
I’d love to know what you thought of The Cloverfield Paradox, and the Cloverfield franchise as a whole, so please leave any thoughts or opinions you may have in the comments section down below. I would really appreciate it if you would follow both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – that way you’ll always be up-to-date on my most current review. But I’ll bring my ramblings to a close now and say thank you to you for taking the time to read my work. I hope you have a fantastic day!