More a cliché than a paradox
When it was announced during the Super Bowl, The Cloverfield Paradox turned a lot of heads. Beyond a simple trailer, this was the immediate release of a new movie, available to viewers right after the game.
Its trailer promises mystery, and an answer to the already mysterious Cloverfield series. More serious fans had already been tracking rumors of The God Particle, and this was a sudden tearing-back of the curtains.
Unfortunately, The Cloverfield Paradox isn’t that great. Its concept seems rushed, its answers unsatisfying, and it has a mix of genres that separate like oil and water.
In its move towards becoming a franchise, Cloverfield’s continuity is already full of holes.
The premise of the movie is this: the Earth is in the middle of an energy crisis and a team of scientists has been sent into space to fix this. From their space station, they will fire off a beam that will (somehow) give the planet unlimited energy. It’s a little too good to be true and they don’t really do a great job of explaining it either.
But there are dangers attached to the space laser, of course. As the prophetic ‘mad PhD’ character warns, its usage eventually tears a hole in reality. The movie takes it as a great excuse for everything to just go out the window.
Our central characters should be the team of scientists who manage the space laser (the Shepard). And they are, for the most. But that doesn’t stop others from wandering in.
Michael Hamilton, as the husband of main character Ava Hamilton, makes sense. But the little girl he rescues, Molly, is someone we could do without, as well as the voice he only talks to over the phone. But Michael himself becomes a problem when he begins his own journeys, which mostly involve wandering around New York in the wake of the Clover monster. He seems to exist almost exclusively to say, “Hey! Remember Cloverfield?”
A similar problem occurs with the scientist Mina Jensen. Her own role in the movie is extremely minor—until a certain point. But at this point, her sudden central role is more a “Really?” moment than a true surprise. I won’t spoil it, in case you do happen to want to see this movie.
Suffice it to say that Jensen is just part of the mess. If the movie had followed a simple ‘alternate reality’ storyline, it might have worked. But its ambition reaches too far, and in ‘breaking the fabric of reality’ it loses sense of what it is. Moments of genuine horror are ruined by sudden humor, stale quips that try (and fail) to be dark. The characters bash the movie more than I did when watching it the first time.
But though a lack of seriousness ruins many of the movie’s moments, what’s worse is its approach to its problems. The Cloverfield Paradox is a very trope-heavy horror movie, so it is easy to guess when something will go wrong. But it is the manner of it going wrong that ruins it. In confronting any problem, our characters are ruined by simple chaos. That’s it. The explanation is that reality is screwed up and that it is somehow just going to go wrong at all the perfect narrative moments. There is no rhyme or reason, but this isn’t a metaphor because the movie has no concept of that. People just get randomly sucked into walls as Michael aimlessly wanders the city.
The Cloverfield Paradox certainly had a lot of potential. All of its actors were wonderful, especially its lead actress, Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Additionally, all of its special effects are well-done and the camerawork is OK too. It may have simply just lost its compass in writing and direction.
As previously mentioned, The Cloverfield Paradox is very trope-heavy and predictable. But more of a challenge is figuring out how it fits into the Cloverfield narrative exactly. Even Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane are loosely connected, so the third movie can’t necessarily be expected to fit perfectly. But even it doesn’t seem to know where it fits.
The Clover does make a brief appearance, of course. But nowhere to be seen are the aliens of 10 Cloverfield Lane. Michael has a bunker scene that reminds us of its predecessor, but that is about it. There are no aliens, unless The Cloverfield Paradox presents them as a (rather convenient) fluke of reality.
All things considered, The Cloverfield Paradox is really a mess. It doesn’t present any of the answers one might hope for. It is, instead, the narrative everyone wonders at but still expects, with plot twists seen from miles away.
We have to hope for a Clover 4 to redeem the series, but Paradox has made its money at least. You know, despite all the bad reviews.
Overall Score: 4.1 (41%)
Summary: Honestly, don’t watch this movie unless you’re hoping to immerse yourself further in the Cloverfield universe. Even then, it is a messy sci-fi movie with some very predictable writing and direction.
- Acting and actors/actresses were good
- Looks relatively nice
- Some genuine scary moments
- Lots of tropes means no surprises
- Riddles continuity with holes
- Few (if any) characters are genuinely likable
- Big, irrelevant subplot with Michael
- Genres clash with awful humor at awful times
- Horror feels largely inconsequential
- Weak sense of conflict