Plays out more along the lines of a really bad Black Mirror episode than an actual feature film. But given the odd marketing methods that have allowed the Cloverfield films to stand out amidst many, it also makes a case for what’s to be expected of The Cloverfield Paradox. While it’s respectable for someone like J. J. Abrams to allow a person of colour to helm a blockbuster whose diversity will undoubtedly shine, the film itself isn’t quite the game changer we would have wanted it to be since it happens to be the exact opposite. It’s the opposite because the fact it was released on Netflix less than 24 hours after it was announced also gives away the feeling that perhaps the film was never good enough to get a theatrical release and was merely dumped onto the streaming service like a direct-to-video film. It wouldn’t surprise me if that was the case for The Cloverfield Paradox because it certainly feels as if it was made as such.
This new Cloverfield film takes place aboard a space station in the future, where Earth is suffering an energy crisis. Above the war stricken Earth, the crew of the fittingly named Cloverfield station are about to open a portal to another dimension that would soon put them at the risk of encountering an alternate reality, one that points back to the origins of the monster that we had already come to recognize from the original Cloverfield film. Although I’ve never particularly been a fan of the first Cloverfield film (mostly due to my general dislike of the found footage format) I’ve always respected what it had set out to achieve in terms of how it captured the post-9/11 American landscape in a world overrun with paranoia. When 10 Cloverfield Lane came about, it was an interesting experiment as to what more could take place within the same universe – but it raised a question as to whether or not the connection was necessary because of how well it works without the connection. From watching this, it feels almost like I’m being vindicated for saying the need to make these Cloverfield films an anthology is completely unnecessary.
I find it hard to tell whether or not The Cloverfield Paradox was made to be tied in with Cloverfield or not, but whatever the case may be, it wouldn’t change how derivative this film feels often to its own fault. Last year, we already had Daniel Espinosa’s Life ripping off Ridley Scott’s Alien but when I watched The Cloverfield Paradox it was the first thing that came to mind; because the very beats felt far too similar not limited to the fact they were both set on a space station and revolving around an unknown life force taking every one of the crew members out one by one. There’s nothing that takes place aboard the station that makes The Cloverfield Paradox feel different and at its best it only feels very dull, leaving us more interested only in what takes place on Earth.
Maybe it would be easier to enjoy what The Cloverfield Paradox is placing us within had it given us more time to see what took place on Earth rather than on board the space station, because there’s nothing especially distinctive about the way it unfolds – it just feels like all the best aspects of Alien or Event Horizon redone much worse. It isn’t even schlocky enough to be entertaining, nor is it ever tense enough to build a reaction from you, it just exists as is and wastes a whole bunch of talented actors along the way. Gugu Mbatha-Raw and David Oyelowo are good, but not enough to elevate stock characters from feeling exactly like that because the weak script doesn’t aspire to go anywhere beyond the stereotypes of its own influences – it just feels like a knockoff or fan fiction at its best.
So what more do we have for the Cloverfield universe now? Beyond these vague connections I’m baffled why it feels necessary to compile all of them into one anthology. Given how perfectly 10 Cloverfield Lane works as a claustrophobic thriller regarding the sanity of John Goodman’s character, its primary mechanic for suspense is clear within the fact that you’re already suspicious of whether or not he’s telling the truth: and yet the title already spoils the fact that you know he’s right. One’s got to give credit to The Cloverfield Paradox for its unique marketing tactics together with the diversity of the efforts involved, but it soon hit me why this film was made available on Netflix rather than in theaters – it just feels like a bad direct-to-video effort cashing in on Cloverfield.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Netflix.
Directed by Julius Onah
Screenplay by Oren Uziel
Produced by J. J. Abrams, Lindsay Weber
Starring Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Aksel Hennie, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz, David Oyelowo, Zhang Ziyi
Release Year: 2018
Running Time: 102 minutes