Netflix sent a shockwave through the film industry upon releasing a commercial during the Super Bowl that it had ownership of the next Cloverfield anthology film. To up the ante even further, they announced that the film, entitled The Cloverfield Paradox, would be available to stream immediately following the game, effectively gluing millions of people to their couches for almost two more hours. The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Julius Onah
Written By: Oren Uziel and Doug Jung
In the near future, scientists aboard a space station are attempting to aid the Earth’s energy crisis. Energy is depleting at an alarming rate, leading scientists to turn to a new source.
After many failed attempts, the scientists are delighted to see that the energy source is operational. But, the station and the crew inside of it notice some serious side effects as the energy source causes them to collide with another dimension and interweave with certain elements in it. As motives and dangerous circumstances come to light, the crew members, led by Hamilton (Mbatha-Raw), must figure out a way to get home to their dimension and save their version of Earth.
Rumors began to swirl at Sundance that Paramount had sold the rights to God Particle to Netflix and that the film would release in approximately two months. Clearly, no one knew the extent of that news story and the Shyamalan-esque twist that would come to light.
In the middle of one of the best Super Bowls in recent memory, Netflix shocked everyone when it released the first footage for God Particle, now titled The Cloverfield Paradox. Such a reveal is in line with the rest of the Cloverfield films as there has been a shroud of mystery over the production of the original 2008 film and 10 Cloverfield Lane.
However, this release speaks to a new horizon for film in which Netflix has a clear advantage. The ability to drop films on consumers during a slow weekend at the movies only strengthens the movement towards streaming. Netflix can be completely flexible and use clever marketing techniques unlike major studios.
Moreover, since The Cloverfield Paradox was initially a Paramount film, we might be seeing the start of another trend where studios sell movies to Netflix in hopes of turning a better financial gain than a standard theatrical release. Netflix was already muddying the waters in the film industry, and it just tapped into another source of content (and possible more subscribers as a result).
A Strong First Act Makes The Cloverfield Paradox Fascinating from the Start
The Cloverfield Paradox borders on a breakneck pace from the start, throwing you into the middle of a highly scientific pursuit while expecting you to keep up. After the credits finish rolling, our characters are thrown into a physics problem that we can only begin to comprehend.
As the pace continues, The Cloverfield Paradox layers question upon question, creating a mysterious and tense atmosphere that is in line with the previous two Cloverfield films. Realities start to bend, twisting space-time in a way that is also a clever twist on the usual formula. As body horror and time begin to become more and more vicious, there’s a palpable amount of panic in the eyes of this wonderfully assembled cast. If you’re anything like me, you’ll inch closer to the television with every alteration. An eerie score from Bear McCreary adds to this sense of dread as the artist formally known as God Particle begins with a serious bang.
With names like J.J. Abrams attached to the project, it’s easy to imagine that The Cloverfield Paradox is very well produced. A strong blending of practical and computer effects creates a legitimate experience that exceeds anything that Netflix has made in its history. The Cloverfield Paradox feels like a movie made for the big screen, and its creepy setup only adds to that fact.
Weak Characterization Effectively Lowers the Stakes
However, the intrigue can only reach a certain point. Sadly, there is little to these characters that creates an emotional link between the viewer and the movie. Gugu Mbatha-Raw has the lone emotional center as a woman with a troubled past and a husband on Earth. As the story progresses, she is met with a moral dilemma that latches onto this past. While it doesn’t necessarily lead to a satisfying conclusion, it may lead to some attachment.
But, every other character has their personality…and that’s it. The Cloverfield Paradox has a pretty stellar cast that works well as a multicultural space crew for an international mission. Actors such as David Oyelowo, Daniel Bruhl, and Chris O’Dowd are charismatic individuals that have appeared in many prominent films. And yet, The Cloverfield Paradox tells us nothing of their personal makeup. What makes them tick? What do they fear? What’s their life on Earth like? The Cloverfield Paradox contains zero answers to those questions.
Cloverfield Tie-Ins Muddle the Mythology and the Movie Itself
As stated previously, The Cloverfield Paradox began production under the title God Particle. However, unlike previous Cloverfield films, God Particle was meant to become the title of the movie rather than a sneaky redirect. In fact, God Particle wasn’t even suppose to become a Cloverfield film at all. It wasn’t until Paramount was unsure of what they had that they reshot the film to include threads that would link the movie to the original Cloverfield. Unfortunately, those tie-ins stick out like a sore thumb.
As the film attempts to tie into Cloverfield, the plot changes from fascinating to generic. Some of the more obvious connections feel and look stitched together — leading to limited resolution while damaging the momentum of the main story.
Because The Cloverfield Paradox deals with time distortion and dimension bending, theories from fans and critics everywhere are beginning to emerge. Theorizing in film is quite a bit of fun, but The Cloverfield Paradox doesn’t offer enough information to one particular theory for any of them to completely check out. In that sense, the mystery of the film is frustrating.
No matter how you look at it, The Cloverfield Paradox is very messy. We’ll never know how God Particle would have turned out, but the changes feel like a shameless attempt to build another franchise from a film that had very different goals.
The Cloverfield Paradox needs to tip its cap to the Netflix marketing department for generating a serious amount of buzz around the film. However, the eyes that the buzz brought in to watch the film may leave disappointed. There are some truly intriguing and clever glimmers in The Cloverfield Paradox that may make the journey worth it for serious fans of the Cloverfield quasi-franchise. But, everyone else will most likely look at the film as a mess. As the Cloverfield associations becomes more apparent, it becomes a somewhat derivative science fiction movie that fails to capitalize on the promise with which it started.
The science fiction fan in me would have rather seen the initial cut of God Particle instead.
Final Grade: C
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