The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) – Review

The Cloverfield Paradox had a surprise release on Netflix the night of February 4th.

By I. Simon

Between Cloverfield and the even better 10 Cloverfield Lane (which I consider to be a masterpiece), the Cloverfield franchise (or “Cloververse”) has proven to be one of the most promising and potentially unique cinematic universes out there. These two films were each groundbreaking and unique in their own ways. Cloverfield was a found footage monster film about 9/11, and 10 Cloverfield Lane was a thriller about the surveillance state. Both of these films brought their fair share of terror, but were also unique enough to not be generic. So when Cloverfield 3 (then titled God Particle, now known as The Cloverfield Paradox) was announced, I was really excited. It was slated to release in February 2017, and then it was pushed repeatedly to new release dates. I then looked at the director and screenwriter out of curiosity, and noticed it was written by Oren Uziel, who previously wrote an awful film titled Freaks of Nature. I was then very worried. That said, I decided to still go in positive because I was certain J.J. Abrams (who technically runs the Cloververse) would be careful in terms of who he picked to write and direct these films. Recently, it was announced that this film would be going straight to Netflix, with a commercial for the film, titled The Cloverfield Paradox, dropping during the Super Bowl just hours before. I went in with low expectations, but even then, The Cloverfield Paradox was worse than I had imagined it would be.

Directed by Julius Onah, and featuring an ensemble cast including Gugu Mbatha-Raw, (Beyond the Lights), David Oyelowo (Selma), Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), Daniel Bruhl (Inglourious Basterds), Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids), The Cloverfield Paradox centers on a team of astronauts on a space station making a terrifying discovery that challenges all they know about the fabric of reality, as they desperately fight for their survival.

Now, if that doesn’t sound familiar, it’s basically the plot of Life, which was a ripoff of Alien, and that’s exactly what this movie is: another generic Alien ripoff, except far more convoluted. They don’t even try to do anything new or interesting with it, but instead force in a bunch of Cloverfield references, which brings me to what is unsurprisingly the biggest issue of the film: the script. The script is not just bad – it’s atrocious. The narrative is incredibly convoluted, with plot threads that are not sewn up, and instead focuses more on being fan service to tie itself into the franchise, without realizing that the point of Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane being almost completely unrelated to one another is intentional, similar to how episodes of The Twilight Zone weren’t very related to one another. The film is also lacking in characterization. I did not care about the characters one bit, and I don’t even expect a ton of characterization in these movies. The Alien franchise, save for Aliens (one of my favorite action films), is not thick on characterization, and I still consider the original to be one of my favorite horror films, and I did enjoy Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, too. As for characterization in The Cloverfield Paradox, it’s very much lacking, if not completely nonexistent. That said, if the film had a better script with a better constructed and more coherent narrative, I might have been more forgiving about this. Unfortunately, the film is very incoherent. Another huge problem with the script is the horrendous dialogue, which really affects the performances. The script is overall just atrocious and a huge mess. It tries to cram in multiple ideas while being a generic Alien ripoff, and it completely fails.

Coming to performances, they are mostly competent, with Gugu Mbatha-Raw giving the best performance in The Cloverfield Paradox (and a really good one of that). These actors have done so much better in other work, but I cannot blame them because the script they are working with is abysmal. In terms of other things I liked about this film, most of the technicals are pretty good. The cinematography is really good, the visual effects are solid for the most part, the production design is good, and the sound design is good. Directionally, this film is somewhat competent, but nothing noteworthy. Onah does have a knack for decent visuals, but he failed to create tension. This film has an over-reliance on jump scares, and most of them failed to scare me in the slightest. It’s a shame, because 10 Cloverfield Lane tried to scare with real tension and psychological horror, and it got me for the most part. Many have been praising Bear McCreary’s score, but I don’t see how it is memorable at all. It definitely doesn’t hold a candle compared to McCreary’s score for 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Even despite my low expectations going in, I was incredibly disappointed by how awful The Cloverfield Paradox turned out to be. I am honestly shocked at how cliched, pandering, predictable, and tedious this film was. I cannot believe that this horrible, lazy mess is actually canon in the Cloververse. What could have been one of the greatest and most unique franchises ever is ruined by this garbage. Even if Cloverfield 4 is good, The Cloverfield Paradox will still stick out of the franchise like a sore thumb. In fact, the ending of this film may be one of the most obnoxious endings I have ever seen in a science fiction film. It honestly felt like a huge middle finger to fans of the Cloverfield franchise. I highly suggest that you avoid The Cloverfield Paradox like the plague, especially if you’re a fan of the previous two Cloverfield entries. This film does nearly everything wrong that 10 Cloverfield Lane did so right. If you have seen Life, then you have seen The Cloverfield Paradox. Life was not a good movie either, but at least it was coherent, knew exactly what it wanted to be, and it had Jake Gyllenhaal in it.

Please do not give Netflix your time for this garbage. Fans of this franchise deserve so much better.

I give The Cloverfield Paradox a D+.

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