Review: THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX has more questions than answers
Courtesy of Paramount/Netflix
In what will go down as the most unprecedented release strategy in history, Netflix has once again proven the strides in which they'll go to up the ante. "The Cloverfield Paradox" is a film that nobody saw coming. At one point it was under the working title of "God Particle" and rumored to be coming out theatrically in April. Then word caught on that Paramount was thinking of optioning the film to the streaming giant. Sure, that's all fine - but the world stood in shock when one 30 second teaser dropped during the Super Bowl stating the movie would be available immediately following the game.
This is a review I didn't know I'd be writing today.
That in itself is insane. My mind is still coming to terms with this surprise. Which makes sense as to why Paramount might've optioned the film to Netflix as this strategy wouldn't work with a normal roll out. And while most fans are excited about another "Cloverfield" entry, the real question needs to be: is the movie good? And to be quite honest, I'm not really sure.
It makes sense early on that "paradox" lies in the title, because the movie spins in so many circles, presenting so many topics for discussion your brain will start to rattle. This also could be why Paramount sold the rights to Netflix and they turned it into a Super Bowl event, because the mega-studio was cleaning house and didn't know how to market this film. It's a twisty blood relative to the previous entries: "Cloverfield" and "10 Cloverfield Lane." But aside from a last second shot, it's hard to pinpoint just exactly how this ties into the convoluted universe.
What I will tell you is the film, at first, takes place on the heels of the 2008 original. The Earth is in an energy crisis and a group of scientists hold the key to humanity's survival. It's called "The Shepherd" and it helps operate a particle accelerator inside an international space station. The crew, made up of new and familiar faces: Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Bruhl, Chris O Dowd and David Oyelowo. The main comrade of focus, however, is Hamilton (Gugu-Mbatha-Raw) someone who has nothing to lose and takes on the expedition at the request of her husband. For a second, the accelerator yields exceptional results before some unexpected events take a turn in classic JJ Abrams fashion.
I don't want to spoil the fun, but it dabbles with alternate realities and time travel loopholes that are more annoying than intriguing. The whole time, I felt like I was connecting dots that never added up. I suppose an added benefit of this being at the ready on Netflix is that you can rewind and dissect even more, it'll also help to have a trusty friend nearby to bounce ideas off of.
The "Cloverfield" franchise is a murky one. As I've learned from these last two films, is that Abrams and company have a good idea trying to connect their prized 2008 darling, but they force a connection that doesn't necessarily need to exist. For example, "10 Cloverfield Lane" works better as a claustrophobic thriller than a sci-fi mystery. The last ten minutes of "Lane" could've been cut and the movie would have been better because of it. "The Cloverfield Paradox" makes it's connections less obvious (save for a last second final stint that will make you all go "oh, so that's how it connects!")
From an acting standpoint, everyone's doing the best with the material. Dowd is your typical comic relief, while Oyelowo is completely underutilized from the opening frame. Not to mention their arches aren't dutifully explained, minus Hamilton - who we see in the opening scenes with her husband. She’s the only character whose backstory we find out. Thus making all of her actions seem understandable even though you might not agree with them.
I can respect the model behind the release strategy and how we don't have to speculate and wither online at the pandemonium taking place before a film releases. We all can just watch "The Cloverfield Paradox" and decide what we think for ourselves. But the bigger picture to look at is, while this film is well acted and has some good thrills, there's still a reason it was sold to Netflix to begin with and not thrusted into theaters like the previous entries. The good news is that it's only a click away, just make sure you have the remote on standby, this one might require multiple viewings to fully embrace it's tone. With that said, this is probably the loosest and weakest entry in the franchise, but I do enjoy the attempts at laying a ground plan for these interdimensional crossovers and I will definitely tune in to see where the "Cloverfield" franchise goes next. C+