In a very Cloverfield thing to do, “The Cloverfield Paradox“ had its premiere trailer during the Super Bowl and with literally just that as marketing, Netflix premiered the film as soon as the game was over. It made the film feel like an event, but the way it was released was the only reason – and not the quality of the film.
The movie’s set in a world on the brink of war, largely caused by a worldwide energy crisis, and brave scientists go to space and test a device called the Shepard Accelerator. It can produce energy or something – the science of the film isn’t explained well.
The story is somewhat interesting when they test the Accelerator two years into their trip and end up in a different dimension. A major problem of the film is that it’s too pre-occupied with answering questions about the “Cloverfield“ universe and tying it together that screenwriter Oren Uziel (“22 Jump Street“) neglects to offer a plausible explanation for the force that’s being menacing on the ship. He mostly just tries to answer problems with a reply like “this is just because it’s a different dimension.”
The deaths are entertaining but there are many moments that don’t make sense. Most of the horror scenes are also cliché but add a twist on something old; which is fine because it’s still fun. A lot of it feels like an episode of “The Twilight Zone“ where they just see what bizarre things stick. One hit is a severed arm crawling around like the hand from “The Addams Family“ – it’s entertaining in its ludicrousness and that’s partly why I like the film.
Though – a big miss is a foosball table where the players spin around aggressively with no one controllingthem. It’s a really cool shot, but if there are no ghosts on the station and they’re not angrily playing a game of foosball, it doesn’t make sense.
For the formula of horror on a space station, the eight-person crew is over-crowded. John Ortiz’ Monk is so expendable he could have been written out. The cast is led by Gugu Mbatha-Raw who portrays a character named Ava Hamilton, who goes up to the space station to escape trauma of her past – which is like Sandra Bullock’s character in “Gravity.” The other scientists on the trip are given random roles, and most characters are cookie cutter. Daniel Brühl and David Oyelowo are both in leadership roles, but they’re generic.
Chris O’Dowd is another character that I liked. As a character he’s likable but isn’t well-developed; he’s the film’s comic relief and he gets the funniest lines. It features a good, diverse ensemble cast – and Askel Hennie, Ziyi Zhang and Elizabeth Debicki – are the other cast members portraying clichéd characters not good enough to mention.
I just think the film’s entertaining and has some heart that comes organically from Ava’s character, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw is great in this. In a decent sub-plot we follow Ava’s husband Michael (Roger Davies) on Earth, which serves to clearly connect the film to the Cloverfield universe. In a way it’s strange that it wouldn’t feel like a Cloverfield movie without this subplot.
I also mostly liked the film because I didn’t have time to make a lot of expectations from the time Netflix premiered the trailer and then made the film available. But if you’ve been waiting for this since it was announced, it’s likely disappointing, especially since last year’s “Life” is more fun. To me, I didn’t have a lot of expectations and it was refreshing watching it only having seen 30 seconds of a trailer.
– by Daniel Prinn