Before its release, monster movie Cloverfield announced its presence as a trailer before Transformers. Shaky footage of New York being destroyed by some unseen foe followed by, not a title, but simply the date “1-18-08”. 10 Cloverfield Lane, filmed in secret, appeared on the radar with a trailer less than three months before the film’s release. On January 4th, in the midst of Super Bowl LII, Netflix a trailer premiered for The Cloverfield Paradox announcing the films release date as “coming very soon” Very soon turned out to be later that night, as Netflix dropped the film as soon as the big game ended. This surprise release came as an even bigger surprise because the film, once titled God Particle, had its release date repeatedly pushed back by Paramount. Originally planned for release in February 2017 the date was then pushed to October 2017, February 2018, and then April 2018. Now we know why.
Set in the near future, the story follows a group of astronauts aboard a space station. They have tried and failed to get a particle accelerator to work, hoping it will create unlimited energy and solve Earth’s energy crisis. The team runs into trouble when, upon a seemingly successful test, they find that Earth has disappeared. As the crew struggles to figure out what happened, stranger things begin to occur, crew members appear trapped in the ships walls, disembodied limbs crawl around the cabin on their own volition.
It’s important to know that, like 10 Cloverfield Lane before it, The Cloverfield Paradox did not start out as a Cloverfield film. Originally titled God Particle, the story had no connection to the Cloverfield universe prior to being reworked by JJ Abrams and his company Bad Robot. This is perhaps one of the films biggest flaws. While 10 Cloverfield Lane was able to integrate the rewrites well enough, Paradox struggles to work the new aspect into the film. Much of the Cloverfield aspect feels tacked on, as if added onto an already completed film. Save some name-dropping on the space station, the Cloverfield aspect is set almost entirely on earth as the lead character’s husband Michael (Roger Davis), helps a young girl find her family in the midst of something wreaking havoc on the city. But even that story fails to be engrossing as it quickly resolves itself without any real struggle. It does contain one great moment that harkens back to the better films in the series. Michael stands in the wreckage of a hospital while something monstrous hidden in the rubble and dust moves above him. With this simple beat, we feel ourselves transported back to the mysterious panic and dread of the original film, minus some shaky cam. Save this brief and stunning minute of the film, perhaps Cloverfield Paradox’s problem is that it is a Cloverfield film.
However, that’s not to say that Bad Robot is solely responsible for this mess of a film, the aspects that originated when Paradox was still God Particle do nothing to save this from being a subpar sci-fi mess. After its initial inciting incident, Paradox stumbles quickly into countless cliches and weak subplots. Characters accuse others of being spies or traitors, only to quickly drop and ignore that thread until later in the film, realize they forgot it was there and resolve it with a quick lampshading. Attempts to have a non-kaiju antagonist force the film to have a character, for seemingly no reason at all, become evil. Almost every one of the characters feels onenote and cliche and the film is unable to find a consistent tone. Mystery and horror are quickly replaced with out of place moments of comedy. Much of this comedy comes at the expense of Mundy (Chris O’Dowd) who in one scene has his arm seemingly eaten by the wall of ship only for it to appear later writing a message to the crew. The explanation for this occurrence, along with most of the events in the film, are never given a satisfying explanation or executed in a manner that makes the lack of one work.
Perhaps the biggest problem with The Cloverfield Paradox, is that it gives unsatisfying explanations for things that don’t need explanations at all. Even in its Super Bowl trailer, it announces that it will finally deliver the explanation to why the previous films events happened. Despite the fact that the answers are hastily and poorly delivered, these are answers we didn’t really need. In fact Cloverfield itself gives hints and clues at the creatures origin, dropped both in the film and in its expansive marketing campaign. This makes it feel like Paradox is retconning the universe’s mythos with shoddy craftsmanship and forced resolution. Luckily, or perhaps not, Paradox is not the only Cloververse film we’ll see in 2018, as the WWII set film currently titled Overlord, comes out in October. We knew nothing about The Cloverfield Paradox until hours before it was released, perhaps, it should have stayed that way.
I give this film 3 Disembodied arms out of 10 3D Printed Guns.