The movies that are the most disappointing are the movies you had the greatest expectations for. So, when I woke up yesterday morning and saw the news that Netflix had surprisingly dropped the latest installment of the Cloverfield franchise, I was hyped. The whole day during school I couldn’t stop thinking about what this movie that I was waiting for since the first rumors about the project formerly titled “God Particle” surfaced might be. So how did it turn out? Not good…
The Cloverfield Paradox is set in the near future, a time of crisis for humanity because all energy resources have been depleted and the planet is searching for new ways to generate huge amounts of energy for human civilization’s sheer endless need. We follow the crew of the Cloverfield space station that is testing one of these new potential energy sources. Inevitably one of the tests fails miserably, and the crew finds itself in the odd place of not knowing where the earth is.
This sounds like a really neat idea and this premise is indeed one of the most interesting things about the whole movie and I’d love to see a version that actually does something with it. This version chose to split its focus between the space station storyline and an unnecessary side plot involving the spouse of our protagonist which has the sole purpose of forcing the narrative into the Cloverfield multiverse. The actual problem of finding a way home is apparently so easy to solve that it takes the scientists literally five minutes to figure out what went wrong and how to reverse it. There is no tension involving the main plotline whatsoever.
Having no tension seems to be one of Cloverfield Paradox‘s biggest issues since none of the crew members have an internal conflict that would make them even remotely likable. Most of the action on-screen comes from different attempts on multiple horror subgenres that make the movie into a mix of body horror, possession horror and horror comedy. The aspects of those subgenres are executed fairly well, but they don’t fit together and lead to an unfocused atmosphere where silly jokes about someone’s arm missing are in the same film as the image of a woman who has wires growing through her body and is trapped within the walls. Needless to say that both comedy and horror end up ineffective. Especially frustrating is the fact that many of the sequences actually containing tension are the standard dilemmas. The Chinese scientist (Ziyi Zhang) is trapped in an airlock that fills with water and the final antagonist (Elizabeth Debicki), plot twist, it’s the alternative reality bestie, gets sucked into space through a window (because it’s a space movie, you know…).
The characters are hit or miss. On the one hand, we have Hamilton (exceptionally well played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw), our protagonist. She is a character that has great potential but there is no one she can interact and form a relationship with since there is barely any meaningful interaction between the crew members at all. On the other hand, we have characters who don’t evolve from the archetypes they represent in the beginning and stay shallow stereotypes of the nations they represent. It is almost ironic how a movie with such a diverse cast and great American and British characters of color can stereotype entire countries quite like this one can. We have, for example, the Russian (Aksel Hennie) who antagonizes everyone else and the antisocial German engineer (Daniel Brühl), depicting almost cartoonish versions of their countries stereotypes.
Ultimately The Cloverfield Paradox is a disappointing movie and in retrospective, it makes sense that Paramount dumped it on Netflix since a theatrical release would probably have been a disaster. But hey, there is supposedly a WWII film within the Cloverfield universe in post-production at Bad Robot and maybe that one will actually be a worthy successor to Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane.
What do you think about The Cloverfield Paradox? Do you like the idea of a loosely connected cinematic multiverse? Let me know in the comments and on Twitter.