REVIEW: “The Cloverfield Paradox”

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Paradox: (noun) a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.

Cloverfield: (noun-ish) a kooky yet cool concoction from J.J. Abrams featuring a series of movies seemingly revolving around the same cataclysmic event. Kind of. But not really.

What started in 2008 as a simple yet effective found-footage horror movie has blossomed into a surprisingly successful feature film franchise. The original “Cloverfield” was followed by 2016’s “10 Cloverfield Lane”. Now two years later we get a third installment, “The Cloverfield Paradox” and a fourth is due out in October.

One of the fascinating things about these movies are how each (so far) are from different horror movie sub-genres. “Cloverfield” was a monster horror movie while the second film was a psychological thriller. “The Cloverfield Paradox” is a straight science fiction horror movie taking place mostly in space. All three are openly influenced by other films but are unique within their franchise. But defining the franchise as a whole, well that’s a bit tricky.

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“The Cloverfield Paradox” takes place in 2028 which immediately separates it from the previous movies. The earth has been crippled by a global energy crisis and nations have joined together to launch the Cloverfield space station. The station is manned by a multinational crew of technicians and scientists who are preparing for an experiment which could lead to an infinite energy supply for the entire planet. But tin-foil hatters warn that the experiment could rip a hole in the space-time continuum allowing all sorts of bad things to happen.

On earth, communications officer Ava Hamilton (Guga Mbatha-Raw) reluctantly leaves behind her husband Michael (Roger Davies) to join the Cloverfield mission. The station’s crew consists of several good faces: Daniel Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, Zhang Ziyi, Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz, and Aksel Hennie. Each come from different backgrounds and have their own perspectives about the mission and the chaos down on earth. Sometimes the planetside political tensions bleed over onto the station and the film smartly explores that dynamic. Perhaps not as much as it could have.

Needless to say the experiment doesn’t go exactly as planned and the crew begin noticing a series of creepy anomalies. At the same time officials on earth have lost contact with the Cloverfield and the situation on the ground has worsened. The film tries to juggle time on the space station with Michael’s time on earth, but it’s Michael’s side that feels a little underserved. For the crew it turns into a survival horror story as they try to undue what their experiment has done.

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“Paradox” operates much differently than its predecessors. At the same time its story rhythms and some of the character treatments lean heavily on the movies that inspired it. You can’t help but notice it. There are times when the familiarity and predictability are a bit much. Also you can see potential in some of the story threads they begin but do little with. Still, I tend to have a soft spot for these types of genre pieces so the issues weren’t hard to get past especially considering all the movie does well. It stocks a good cast and the performances hit there marks. The production design and special effects are impressive and Bear McCreary’s score hearkens back to 90’s era adventures – big and persistent but fitting. Most importantly, “Paradox” sprinkles in some clever clues as to how it is connected to the overall “Cloverfield” franchise.

Director Julius Onah and writer Oren Uziel have been attached to the project since 2012 when it used the developmental title of “God Particle”. It was eventually confirmed to be the next Cloverfield film but faced numerous delays. The true stroke of advertising genius (and guts) came February 4, 2018, Super Bowl Sunday. A teaser trailer debuted proclaiming the movie would be available immediately following the big game. No press tour or pre-release trailer campaign. It marked a new attention-getting approach for the industry.

So where does “The Cloverfield Paradox” fit in? Let’s just say you could call it a prequel. That’s my take on it and I enjoyed how this film brought me to that conclusion. But many people have left it with a much different reaction and with their critical guns have been blazing. Sure, it’s a traditional sci-fi horror picture that doesn’t break new ground outside of its slick advertising trick. But is it really trying to break new ground? I would argue it’s trying to make a fun, intriguing “Cloverfield” installment. Speaking for myself, mission accomplished.

VERDICT – 3.5 STARS

28 thoughts on “REVIEW: “The Cloverfield Paradox”

  1. I really enjoyed it as well and it thrilled me during various moment. I just wish they would have shown how that arm came to be like that. Would be interesting to have a companion movie showing what happened in the other dimension.

    • So I’m not alone? Thank goodness! It has seemed like an assembly line of disdain towards this movie. The arm is one of the things I was referring to when I mentioned intriguing threads o story that the start but do little with. Can you imagine the various things they could have done with that?

      • No, I also feel like I’m one of the few people who really was into this. I gave it an even higher score although it’s clear that there are flaws. But I liked the emotional beats and the mystery of it all. Yeah, if only they had done more with those things….

      • Good to hear. I bounced back-and-forth between 3.5 and 4 stars. And I can’t wait to rewatch it this weekend. I truly believe people may be overlooking the links it has to the other films. Pretty smart and opens up some really cool ideas for future movies.

  2. This really did come out of the blue. Good to hear it’s not a complete right off though. Might have to reinstate my Netflix membership to check it out.

    • It’s getting thrashed so enter with caution. But I had no major issues with it. It’s a pretty familiar story but it’s connection to the Cloverfield franchise is pretty cool. I had a lot of fun with it.

    • That’s great to hear. I’m with you. I don’t get the rabid dislike for this movie. Sure, parts of it feels familiar. But it definitely has its place in the Cloverfield franchise. And I was pretty much glued throughout. Really like the cast and the pacing. In fact, I’ve actually considered bumping my score up to a 4.

  3. It has its moments – but I thought this movie was all over the place. It didn’t have any logical narrative threads that I could see. For me, it just didn’t make much sense. Sure it’s fun, but it was all a bit mindless and silly IMO.

    • That’s interesting and I certainly respect your take. I know this is against the grain but I thought it all came together pretty well. Granted, the open up some questions and don’t seem to care about answering them. But the central narrative and how it connects with the greater Cloverfield idea worked for me.

    • Good to hear. It’s good to hear from others who had fun with it. I found it to be a fun fit with the Cloverfield u inverse. As you said, not the best movie ever, but also not deserving of the thrashing it’s getting.

  4. Pingback: The Cloverfield Paradox | Thomas J

  5. Pingback: REVIEW: “The Cloverfield Paradox” — Keith & the Movies | phillipwaynegroy

  6. Nice review Keith. Although I liked the characterization of Ava (which reminded me of Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s performance in 10 Cloverfield Lane), Paradox is kind of a mess. Parts of it are fun but the plot is too ridiculous to take seriously and feels like a first draft, plus the references to the previous films feel forced.

    • Interesting. I thought the plot was fine, ridiculous sure, but the previous films were also a bit goofy too. And I’ll admit I really liked the connection to the earlier movies. I found it be pretty crafty and it opens up a ton of possibilities for other movies.

      I think ultimately I liked it because it was a lighter, survival horror movie much in the vibe of some of the sci-fi that came out of the 50s. I realize that that is a broad stroke, but it made it fun for me.

  7. Glad you had fun with it but I didn’t like it at all…sorry! I thought it was too derivative and there was way, way too much footage of various crew members looking perplexed or horrified at bleeping screens or one another. I’m not sure all this tying in works for me.

    • Yep, I really enjoyed the simplicity. I didn’t find it scary but I liked the old-school survival angle. I’ve always been a sucker for those. Also felt there was a 50s sci-fi vibe that I had fun with.

  8. Nice review Keith, I’ve been curious about checking this out but turned off by the slew of negative reviews but yours is much more well balanced and makes me more inclined to give Paradox a go…especially since I’ve seen the other two Cloverfield’s I may as well!

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