By Jack Dignan
The idea of the Cloverfield universe fascinates me. They are, essentially, a series of standalone sci-fi films disguised as a big budgeted blockbuster franchise so as to get them seen by an audience who might not otherwise seek them out. That, to me, is amazing. And best of all? These films, now three for three, are continuously made in secret, released suddenly and unexpectedly. I thought releasing 10 Cloverfield Lane a month after its announcement was ballsy, but with The Cloverfield Paradox, previously titled God Particle, the announcement came mere hours before release. It’s the most Cloverfield thing to ever happen.
So yes, this film is now available on Netflix, and yes, you can watch it as many times as your sci-fi loving heart desires. It’s the film we didn’t know we’d be getting so soon, let alone right in our living room, but does this third Cloverfield movie live up to its two hours worth of hype? Well, yes and no. Given the secrecy surrounding this film, the plot is best kept under wraps. I experienced it for the first time with very little prior knowledge of what’s really going on, and it’s the way I’d recommend most. Don’t fear, there’ll be no spoilers here.
In its simplest form, The Cloverfield Paradox takes us somewhere these films have yet to visit; space. We follow a small, diverse crew each chosen for a specific field, where their main goal is to perform an experiment that, if successful, has the potential to save a dying, energy-less planet we call home. But when the experiment goes wrong, this crew uncovers a series of strange phenomena’s going on aboard their ship, where the world they know may not be the one they were once in. Like both previous films, it’s a thriller big on ideas, but unfortunately this time around, these ideas prove too big for the film to handle.
Screenwriter Oren Uziel throws all he can into this contained Alien-esque thriller, but it’s all ideas with very few payoffs. His concepts of a parallel dimension and the physics-defying effects it has on this unsuspecting crew make for a fantastic first act. The dialogue is heavy-handed and full of exposition dumps, including a particularly on the nose news broadcast, but once the weird shit kicks into gear, the intrigue really begins. Circumstances are unpredictable, and the character’s behaviours even more so, forcing your mind to think hard and fast as you attempt to unravel the secrets held within this mystery box of a movie.
Visually, The Cloverfield Paradox is a treat. Director Julius Onah brings competent style and fantastic eye candy to a brilliantly established world where the extraordinary is considered ordinary. It’s the most visually striking of the trilogy, its weird and out-there concepts executed with brilliance and even a strike of humour. There are so many fantastic actors involved with this movie, and trust me, they’re all great. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is the film’s primary emotional attachment, Raw giving the best performance, but it’s Chris O’Dowd’s witty side character that brings the most joy and fun to the screen.
Sadly, the plot just doesn’t have use for any of them. They’re generic characters in of themselves, but when the story really kicks into gear, most of them are wasted. You don’t care about any of them, and most of their sub-plots are undeveloped to the point of being uninteresting. There’s no emotional connection when the bad shit’s going down, nor is there any logic provided to anything happening on screen. The actors do the most with what they’re given, but the story, at best, is paper-thin. Elizabeth Debicki’s character begins on a strong note, but her story soon proves illogical, leading to a frustratingly bad third act.
Even the actual ‘Cloverfield Paradox’ elements of the script feel like wasted potential. The idea behind it is strong, smart and effective, but the execution is subpar. The Cloverfield Paradox ties itself together with the films that came before it, but the connections feel forced. Still, the ideas behind it are thought provoking, and if anything, it’s created further interest in this franchise J.J. Abrams has so ingeniously created. This film isn’t great, but, for fans of what’s already come, you can watch it from the comfort of your own home at no extra price. And know what’s even better? A fourth installment is due out later this year.
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