Just moments after a spectacular Super Bowl, The Cloverfield Paradox, the third film in J.J. Abrams’ pseudo-anthology franchise appeared on Netflix. If the Cloverfield franchise is one thing, it’s very good at marketing. The first movie built incredible mystery up until release date. The second as well. Both used codenames for a while; as did Cloverfield Paradox which was being called “God Particle” for a year or two. Does Cloverfield Paradox add a new enjoyable entry to the series or is it a mastery of marketing and little more?
At the eleven minute mark, the title fills the screen
above some lovely CG of the space station.
Love or hate the series; each Cloverfield movie has a distinct attitude and flavor that makes it a unique part of the whole. The first film was a found footage monster movie. Godzilla with steady-cam and it delivered that narrative effectively. The second film is a claustrophobic paranoia film with little to do with the monster or anything else. Now, Cloverfield Paradox plays out like a sci-fi horror flick in the vein of Event Horizon.
The story begins with Eva Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who is with her significant other, Michael (Roger Davies) moments before she is ready to leave on an important mission. From there we move onto a space station orbiting Earth where Hamilton and a team of scientists are preparing to test an experiment. The test is initiated, but moments later it’s deemed a failure. A hectic score by Bear McCreary begins along with the opening credits which come on screen between scenes of the space station crew feverishly working.
At the eleven minute mark, the title fills the screen above some lovely CG of the space station. Throughout the opening moments, we’re told that the world is in disarray and that the experiment is a chance to create unlimited energy for the entire planet. Such abundance would cease the need for wars over energy resources.
About halfway through Cloverfield Paradox,
things are going great.
The first thing you will notice about Cloverfield Paradox is the stellar cast. Chris O’Dowd, Daniel Brühl, and Donal Logue, among others. The acting is superb, elevating the dialogue and providing the right amount of paranoia and menace.
About halfway through Cloverfield Paradox, things are going great. By that, I mean that the story is tense and weird, but intriguing. Spooky stuffs are happening all around to each of the crew. However, a lot of the tension is instantly undermined by a goofy sequence with a severed arm. It’s mostly played for laughs, and it works, but it also serves to make the rest of the film less engaging.
It’s no secret that this film is a side-quel to the original film.
The slight turn to the silly doesn’t drag down the whole experience. Scares continue, as does the building mystery. While most of the story takes place on the space station, there is also the story of Michael on Earth as he deals with the first moments of the monster from the original film.
It’s no secret that this film is a side-quel to the original film. The connection to the first Cloverfield here is that this is the story of how the monster came to be in the first place. Unlike the other two films, this one tries to build out the world a little more, but it also keeps it intimate and personal. Cloverfield Paradox makes a mild effort to provide a dose of character in an otherwise plot-driven monster movie. The world-building is also mild and a bit confusing for fans trying to link the chronology.
So, what’s the final verdict for Cloverfield Paradox?
In almost no way is Cloverfield a poorly made movie. But at the same time, it’s not all that great either. It’s a film perfectly suited for the medium in which it is delivered. Had this movie been released to theaters it would’ve been almost laughable. But on Netflix, where the standards are somewhere between Hollywood and SyFy Channel, Cloverfield Paradox is in a happy place.
So, what’s the final verdict for Cloverfield Paradox? It’s alright. 10 Cloverfield Lane (aka Part 2) is still the pinnacle of the series. And the original had much more relentless pacing and some gravitas. Here, we get a well-made b-movie which benefitted more from brilliant marketing than filmmaking.