The Cloverfield Paradox Movie Review
Lost in space, with inexplicable things happening on a space station. The new instalment in the Cloverfield saga raises more questions than answers.
Director: Julius Onah
Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daniel Brühl, David Oyelowo, John Ortiz, Chris O’Dowd, Aksel Hennie, Zhang Ziyi, Elizabeth Debicki, Roger Davis, Clover Nee & Donal Logue
Run Time: 102 min.
US Release: 04 February 2018 (Online on Netflix)
UK Release: 05 February 2018 (Online on Netflix)
German Release: 04 February 2018 (Online on Netflix)
If you read my previous reviews of the other Cloverfield movies, you will know that I am a fan of the franchise. I liked the first one quite a bit, still believing it is one of the better found-footage flicks, and don’t even get me started on 10 Cloverfield Lane; apart from the ending it is a perfect homage to Hitchcock’s Psycho and includes a fantastic performance by John Goodman. While I was aware that a new Cloverfield production was coming this year, I had no idea that it was going to be released after the Super Bowl on Netflix. So, guess how surprised I was when I saw the advert during the game.
Seven scientists orbiting Earth, test a device known as “The Shepherd” to find a solution to an energy crisis, which is pushing the world to the brink of war. When a test run goes awry, the scientists find themselves lost in space with Earth nowhere to be seen.
Attention!!! Reviewing this movie without giving away spoilers is basically impossible, which is why this is going to be a mild spoiler-review.
Let me start by saying that this is a fun space thriller at its core but it would have been even better, had it been produced as an independent story and not as part of the Cloverfield universe. The basic theme of the plot is intriguing and would have made for a great cerebral sci-fi flick, even if it is sadly wasted here. The horror and mystery aspects, on the other hand, are really well explored.
What I didn’t like was the fact that the film doesn’t really answer the questions its marketing campaign promised it would do. Instead, it creates more questions, rather than answering them and the only way the plot would make sense now, is if it plays in a parallel dimension to the other pictures. This is first of all due to the period in which the story plays in; Cloverfield plays in 2008, while Paradox is set in the future of 2028. Second, there are narrative elements in the story that would contradict the first. So, if it does play in a parallel universe, although being quite the genius idea, it would also be lazy writing, since it sets up no rules to the outcomes it could have on parallel worlds and its timelines.
The other issue is that it doesn’t feel as if it was meant to take part in the world that Abram’s set-up in the first place, since all Cloverfield references look like they where shoehorned in during post-production. Narrative-wise, the pacing is off, as it switches from the space station to a couple of events on earth, which screeches the flow of the plot to a near halt. The dialogues are mostly good, but it can get a little bit over-the-top and silly, once it starts with the multiverse theories. I also found that the picture took itself at times way too serious for its own good, while some of the comedic moments were introduced at the wrong time.
Paradox has a vast array of international stars, most of them giving fairly good performances. My only issue is that none of them react surprised or horrified at some of the stuff happening on the space station, although the most collected person would be freaking out by the things this group witness. I also took an issue with the fact that almost all characters are unlikeable.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, of Doctor Who fame, plays the main character Ava Hamilton. She went through a tragic past with her husband Michael, portrayed by Roger Davies, which strained their relationship. She is therefore afraid of the idea to leave him on Earth while working on the Cloverfield space station for an unknown amount of time. Mbatha-Raw gave a fine performance but is at times emotionally cold and distant. I had a hard time understanding her and disliked most decisions she made. Davies, on the other hand, gets a very limited amount of screen time, making it impossible for the audience to connect with his role.
Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds) portrays German physicist Schmidt and Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) plays Chinese engineer Tam. Both give good performances, although Schmidt is a true dislikeable person. It is also hinted that these two have some form of relationship going on, though that is never explored.
The most likeable characters are those of Chris O’Dowd & David Oyelowo, who play Mundy and Commander Kiel. O’Dowd is best known for his comedic roles; so it is no surprise that he is the funny bone of this film. Mundy reacts sarcastically to events that are inexplicable. Oyelowo gives by far the best performance; he is empathetic and seems to be truly affected by the situation the crew is facing.
On the other end of the spectrum are Aksel Hennie and Elizabeth Debicki (as Volkov and Mina Jensen respectively), whose performances are atrocious. Debicki’s face is emotionless throughout all of her screen time and she behaves like a machine, rather than a human being, while Hennie is semi-yelling most of his dialogue.
The cinematography, however, is the best aspect this movie has to offer! It makes use of great angles to sell the claustrophobic feeling on the station and builds up tension effectively through the use of dolly zooms. The crisp and clear looking and while it feels very sterile, it makes use of a few strong colours; in particular the neon purple light of the Shepherd and the gyro. The computer-generated graphics and effects look great and put to shame some of the big budget blockbusters. Honestly, I can’t find anything wrong with the way this Netflix production was filmed.
Verdict: Being a fan of this franchise, I was deeply disappointed by this third instalment. If this would have been a self-contained project, it would have made for an alright sci-fi thriller but given the fact that it plays in the Cloverfield universe, the lazy explanations used as to how each film is interconnected really hurts the movie. There are events happening that don’t make sense and are simply being brushed off. It was nice to see, though, that the cast was made up of international stars from around the world and they all did a good job, with the exception of a few that played very wooden and over-the-top. I did have an issue with the characters, however, as they weren’t likeable and thus I couldn’t connect with them. The cinematography and effects, on the other side, were top-notch and the best this picture had to offer. In the end, I will give The Cloverfield Paradox a 5.0 out of 10.
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