Never in the history of my cinema-loving existence has a film announcement been so instantly gratifying. Not only did the first trailer for the third entry into the shared Cloverfield universe drop during the Super Bowl, accompanied by the official announcement that Netflix had acquired the film for distribution, but we also found out that the film would be having its premiere on the streaming service TONIGHT, as soon as the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles were finished playing football. Even when taking the exciting marketing scheme of the film franchise into consideration, one can’t help but be surprised and thrilled by the boldness to just up and release a movie without much warning or the slightest bit of community knowledge. To go into a film as wonderfully blind as Netflix has allowed us to do with The Cloverfield Paradox is a fresh experience that we aren’t accustomed to in a modern era that tends to know everything about a movie before it’s even released. On these merits alone, The Cloverfield Paradox is a resounding success- but how does the actual film stack up?
Pretty damn well.
In the film, Earth is suffering from a global energy crisis, resulting in a crew taking a mission to outer space to perfect a particle accelerator that will bring the planet an unlimited amount of energy. After several unsuccessful attempts to do so, the crew becomes frustrated and tensions begin to rise- until something finally works in their favor…or so they think. Beyond this, there is nothing I can say in regard to plot that wouldn’t be delving into spoiler territory, and since Netflix has ensured a fresh experience, I won’t taint for that those who’ve yet to experience The Cloverfield Paradox for themselves.
This is a film that is undeniably crafted in a similar vein to Alien, but there are enough inventive surprises thrown into the mix that it manages to stand as its own entity, which is an honest to God relief considering the staleness of last year’s Life and Alien: Covenant. Director Julius Onah has crafted a science fiction space thriller that utilizes its setting for maximum tension and isolation at times, while also maintaining an authentic sense of humor and a level of emotional investment. The film looks great, and Onah crafts moments that feel as though they belong to the best film of the connected franchise, regardless of the mixed package they come in.
Much of the success can be attributed to the stellar ensemble cast of Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, Zhang Ziyi, John Ortiz, and Chris O’Dowd. The actors exhibit a genuine chemistry with each other without sacrificing the distinct personality traits of each respective character. Mbatha-Raw is a vessel for our emotional attachment, and through her performance and the story of the character, I found myself unexpectedly moved at times. Chris O’Dowd, too, is a particular standout as the comedy relief. Fortunately, Onah handles O’Dowd’s character well, allowing the humor to thrive as a character trait rather than feeling like a forced attempt at being funny. The character feels as though he makes jokes for the sake of his own sanity, and as someone who frequently does the same, I can appreciate that.
The move to bring The Cloverfield Paradox to Netflix may be shocking as the events of the film unfold, because this third entry would look damn good on a big screen, and it was made for such. However, the film tends to be trippy at times (Another pleasant surprise), and the science fiction aspect dominates the horror and drama, meaning that the film won’t be quite as investing to broad audiences as the first two films in the series were. If Paramount’s decision to bring Netflix into the fold was based on a concern of financial returns, it’s a transaction that makes total sense. I’m not sure that this entry would have performed so well at the box office, save for opening weekend with the Cloverfield name attachment, but it’s guaranteed to dominate the streaming service.
I enjoyed this film immensely, but it’s hardly perfect. Michael, a character on Earth, is performed to perfection by Roger Davies. He lends a hand in building the central heart that drives the motivation of a key character. The issue, however, is that, save for the final shot of the movie (!!!), the events taking place on Earth aren’t as interesting what’s going on in space. Though Earth isn’t heavily featured throughout, it’s inclusion slightly detracts from the sustained tension of our lead conflict.
Another issue that I took with The Cloverfield Paradox is that it’s entirely predictable. Though the film handles similarities to other features inventively enough to differentiate itself, the fate of certain characters and the resolution to their problems can be spotted almost immediately. At times, the events manage to remain gratifying and emotionally resonant, but there are moments, too, that feel as though the film is playing things a little too safe. The lead-up to Paradox was steeped in surprises, so the lack thereof in the actual film is disappointing to a certain extent.
Even still, The Cloverfield Paradox furthers the mythology of the shared universe with a tense, often funny, and emotionally resonant third entry. The series continues to be ever impressive in regard to its quality and its ability to keep viewers on their toes. Go now, revel in the hype and let us know your thoughts on the film.
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