The Cloverfield Paradox Lacks the Tension and Twists of Its Predecessors

All Images: Netflix
All Images: Netflix

The third Cloverfield movie, The Cloverfield Paradox, was unexpectedly released on Netflix Sunday night. It was a landmark moment for film distribution because never before has a film of this magnitude been released without reviews, notice, or promotion. Unfortunately, the film itself doesn’t live up to its historic release.

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Illustration for article titled The Cloverfield Paradox Lacks the Tension and Twists of Its Predecessors

Directed by Julius Onah, written by Oren Uziel and Doug Jung, and produced by J.J. Abrams, The Cloverfield Paradox is set in an unidentified time period when the Earth is on the brink of self-destruction. Energy is needed to survive, so an international team of scientists goes into space to try and create sustainable energy using a powerful particle accelerator. However, the particle accelerator is unpredictable and dangerous, and it ends up, somehow, making the Earth below the space station disappear.

Where did it go? How can they get back? Why are all these strange things starting to happen? It’s an intriguing set-up to be sure, and the cast, which includes Daniel Bruhl, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O’Dowd, Ziyi Zhang, Elizabeth Debicki, and David Oyelowo, is really top -notch. From almost the first moment of the film, however, it’s obvious the world of the movie and the movie itself share something in common: They both lack energy. The film is incredibly flat, the structure is way too familiar, and almost all of the characters are paper-thin. There are a few cool sight gags and design choices, but beyond those, most of the film is an exercise in banality.

The action is sporadic at best, but even then, there’s no tension to it. And many times, what’s happening on screen doesn’t make much sense. The characters have to accomplish a specific goal, but the methods to get there feel infuriatingly arbitrary. “Close this, seal this, freeze that, why is she in there?” Most of the movie feels like it’s in there just to get the runtime up to 100 minutes. By the end, the one emotional through-line the story has been building gets an decent payoff, but it’s so tonally off from the rest of the movie, it doesn’t land.

Illustration for article titled The Cloverfield Paradox Lacks the Tension and Twists of Its Predecessors

Are you asking yourself: “Does it at least connect to the other Cloverfield movies? Does it provide cool answers to its mysteries?” The answers are “Yes” and “Not really.” The best parts of the movie are when these connections are explored or explained, but the rest of the movie can’t sustain that. It’s all tangential, ultimately inconsequential, and draws focus away from the characters and a plot that’s thin to begin with.

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This is all very disappointing, again, because even in their underwritten roles, the cast is fantastic. Debicki, Mbatha-Raw, and O’Dowd in particular are trying their damnedest to breathe life into the film. It just so happens the script and direction simply aren’t up to their standard.

I hate to bring anything outside of the movie into a movie review, but The Cloverfield Paradox is on Netflix for a reason. Until Sunday night, the general public believed this movie was going to be released in theaters April 20. Having now seen it, it’s understandable why Paramount decided maybe this route was better. The movie isn’t as innovative as the first Cloverfield, nor is it as tense and cool as 10 Cloverfield Lane. All it has going for it is this shocking release, a handful of okay scenes, and a final image that’ll provide a hearty shock and chuckle. In a theater, paying $15, that wouldn’t be enough. But, watching at home on your couch, it may just be.

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The Cloverfield Paradox is now on Netflix.

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Entertainment Reporter. NYU Cinema Studies Alum. Formerly Premiere, EW, Us Weekly, and /Film. AP Award-Winning Film Critic & CCA member. Loves Star Wars, posters, Legos, and often all three at once.

DISCUSSION

davidlopan
davidlopan

***Spoilers***

Not a whole lot made sense:

  • Earth disappeared, but no one among the astronauts decides to use any of the instruments to figure out where they are.
  • So Jensen’s station blew up, but she somehow transitioned, alive, to an alt-Earth station on the opposite side of the sun.
  • Both the gyro and the worms end up in Volkov’s stomach, intact.
  • Volkov has an eyeball problem and a conversation with himself, which apparently was inconsequential.
  • Hamilton wanted to go to alt-Earth just so she could warn herself about something that clearly didn’t happen there in the first place.
  • Smith and Jensen had some seriously awesome meds.
  • It sure was easy for Jensen to get that gun when she needed it. That safe was less secure than my desk drawer.
  • The accelerator ripped open space time, but apparently that only happens the first time you turn it on. And the second. After that = stable!
  • The boyfriend’s scenes on Earth also appear to take place in another universe. One where a movie could have been made that was much more interesting.
  • When you plan your Earth reentry, make sure to avoid the eyeball of any large, conveniently placed aliens. They get really mad!