Movie Review: ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ an Entertaining Deep-Space Void
Here’s a new marketing campaign: the latest installment in a big screen sci-fi franchise unveils its very first trailer during the Superbowl… and immediately premieres on Netflix right after the big game wraps up.
It’s The Cloverfield Paradox, a sequel (prequel?) to two movies I kinda dug - but I didn’t even know this new one existed until hours before watching it. The strategy might have paid off: while anticipation or big-screen aspirations might have sunk Paradox, I can’t say I wasn’t entertained by the fast & loose late-night snack of an end product here.
The first Cloverfield was one of the more interesting additions to the found footage genre, a global kaiju cataclysm caught through the eyes of a drunken videographer racing through New York City. The second, 2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, was 90 minutes of a nifty little B-movie thriller with no connection to the earlier movie - save for a twist ending that’s spoilt by the movie’s very title.
But where Paradox fits into the Cloverfield universe… well, it’s a paradox unto itself. In what seems to be a prequel to the original film, a group of scientists-astronauts is sent into space to power-up some kind of particle accelerator to unlock the secrets of Higgs-Boson, generate perpetual unlimited power, and save the world from the brink of war during a global crisis.
Or, you know, unleash giant monsters from an alternate dimension upon the Earth, as seen in the first movie and prophesied by a TV conspiracy theorist (Donal Logue) early on here. But how did he know they’d be giant monsters, I’m thinking?
None of the energy crisis material matches anything in the earlier movies, which leads me to believe this may not be a prequel after all… in fact, it’s entirely reasonable to speculate that all three films take place in alternate dimensions, and the only link between them is the briefly-glimpsed monsters. And in Paradox, the glimpse is the briefest of all.
But that’s OK. Instead of getting into the monster mash or tying these films together, The Cloverfield Paradox delivers yet another schlocky Alien retread that throws in elements from films like The Thing, From Beyond, Event Horizon, and countless other creature features.
Just minus the creature. But when bad stuff starts to happen to a good cast - the astronauts are played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Brühl, David Oyelowo, John Ortiz, Chris O'Dowd, Aksel Hennie, and Ziyi Zhang, who speaks in Mandarin throughout the entire film - Paradox gets pretty fun, even if there’s no reasonable explanation offered for all the weird goings-on.
Highlight: a severed arm that crawls around the floor and somehow communicates with the crew… from another dimension? In which it’s owner has died?
Nothing here makes a lick of sense, and the final act of the film takes an unfortunate turn towards action movie cliches (one ridiculous scene matches a shockingly similar one in the recent megabomb Geostorm, beat for beat), but for a good while The Cloverfield Paradox offers enough schlocky fun to keep you watching.
It ain't last year's very similar Life, which was surprisingly good, but Paradox, at its best, offers a comparable level of thrills.
I enjoyed both previous Cloverfield movies, and got a giddy little kick out of this one, too. But three movies teasing a world of giant monsters is two too much; this film and the previous one are all-too-clearly independent scripts shoehorned into the Cloverfield franchise without much care for how well they fit.