The Cloverfield Paradox 2018
After a scientific experiment aboard the space station involving a particle accelerator has unexpected results, the astronauts find themselves isolated. Following their horrible discovery, the space station crew must fight for survival.
February 4, 2018
Oren Uziel and Doug Jung
Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Brühl, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw
After being rescheduled for April weeks before it was slated for a theatrical release, the third chapter in the loosely connected Cloverfield franchise made its surprise debut on Netflix immediately following Sunday’s Super Bowl. Easily one of the most hotly anticipated films of 2018, The Cloverfield Paradox (previously referred to as Cloverfield 3, God Particle, and Cloverfield Station) is a complex and metaphysical sci-fi that strays from most of its predecessors’ horror elements. As opposed to the intimate microcosm of Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield lane, The Cloverfield Paradox is grand in scope, ambitious in execution, intelligently presented, yet somehow less compelling than its siblings—despite opening the franchise to multiple dimensions, tearing the very membrane of space itself.
Official Synopsis: After a scientific experiment aboard the space station involving a particle accelerator has unexpected results, the astronauts find themselves isolated. Following their horrible discovery, the space station crew must fight for survival.
The Cloverfield Paradox is directed by Julius Onah from a script penned by Oren Uziel and Doug Jung; the film stars Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Brühl, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
Cloverfield (released in 2018) was the first big-budget, major-studio-backed found footage film of the 21st Century; it succeeded in spite of its method of presentation, as moviegoers saw past the shaky cam and jump scares, allowing themselves to be immersed in an original monster flick with echoes of the 9/11 attacks on New York City. It was nothing short of an American Godzilla, introducing a new breed of seaborne creature, one that towered above anything to previously raid US shores. Though the monster was gargantuan, the film’s focus on a tight group of characters attempting to maneuver the chaos made it feel personal.
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Though 10 Cloverfield Lane went in a vastly different direction, it was just as successful as its predecessor in its own right. Even those who felt the film’s third act was over the top couldn’t deny the burning suspense and claustrophobic setting made for a uniquely engrossing experience. Though only incidentally connected to the first Cloverfield, 10 Cloverfield Lane nonetheless established an umbrella, not unlike The Twilight Zone where a variety of loosely connected themes could be explored in a universe that may or may not be connected.
What made both of the films compelling was the realistic situations that grounded the fantastic elements: A goodbye party and a kidnapping, most specifically. In The Cloverfield Paradox, however, nothing feels grounded or realistic. Taking place in a not-too-distant future, we’re immediately thrust into a world we don’t recognize with characters reacting to a situation we can’t immediately relate too (a worldwide energy crisis that’s pushed political superpowers to the brink of war). The majority of the film takes place in space, which directors like Ridley Scott and James Cameron used to amplify horror elements in the Alien franchise. But as opposed to the Alien universe, The Cloverfield Paradox is bright and shiny, with a plastic sheen that resembles the J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek films (complete with unnecessary lens flairs).
Most sci-fi movies, in fact, have a darker aesthetic than The Cloverfield Paradox, so the film’s sheen definitely works to its disadvantage, in this horror fan’s opinion. And while I adored the complex storyline with metaphysical mind-benders, it felt both poorly executed and too flippant for what I had previously considered a serious franchise. With the very fabric of time and space distorted, we seemed to get only a few examples of the interdimensional chaos implied by the crews’ predicament. And when it becomes necessary to perform exact maneuvers, suddenly, the laws of physics fall back into perfect alignment. And while The Cloverfield Paradox has some gruesome moments, it doesn’t produce palpable dread, suspense, disgust, or terror. There are also pacing issues that bring the action to a halt at what should be exciting moments, not to mention unnecessary emotional subplots that do nothing for the story beyond extending its runtime.
My biggest complaint is that there aren’t enough monsters. Sure, Cloverfield denied us a money shot until the last minute, and 10 Cloverfield Lane made us wait until the climax before the threat even revealed itself, but both created a legitimate sense of danger and immediacy completely absent for The Cloverfield Paradox. It’s a fun watch, but not as good as last year’s Life, which itself could have fit under the Cloverfield umbrella (with only minor tweaks).
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