The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) Review: Easy Come, Easy Go
After what seemed like the beginning of a descent into development hell, the third chapter in the loosely aligned Cloverfield saga has emerged. The film ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ was previously known as ‘The God Particle’, which tells you a fair bit about the film already. Set immediately prior to the original ‘Cloverfield’, the movie shows us a desperate last-ditch attempt by humanity to solve the world’s energy crisis, demonstrated of course by…pretty long lines at the gas station.
What follows is, unfortunately, much of what you’ve come to expect. There’s a ship, a crew, and a mission. A bunch of technical jargon is hurled at you a mile a minute, and nothing goes as planned. I don’t want to be reductive in saying ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ is your standard space exploration horror flick…but it kind of is. That’s not to say there aren’t elements of it that I didn’t enjoy, but the whole time I couldn’t shake the feeling that this had all been done before.
What hasn’t been done before, at least not very often, is having the lead in a movie of this type being played by a person of colour. Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays the lead role of Hamilton, and she’s joined by quite the cast. David Oyelowo as the crew’s captain, Daniel Bruhl, John Ortiz, Chris O’Dowd, Askel Hennie, Ziyi Zhang and Elizabeth Debicki all play different types of scientists. They’re well-acted roles, and the film has a diverse cast, but aside from that, there’s nothing to discern them from any other crew on any other ship, in any other movie.
It’s a pity that this happened with ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’. The film series thus far had seemed to take advantage of the audience’s familiarity with sci-fi horror tropes. Each installment in the past took an existing idea but presented it from another perspective. One that was wholly unique and gave you something you already knew, in an entirely new form.
‘Cloverfield’ is not just another a giant monster movie. It’s a giant monster movie that sticks with regular people affected by an incredible disaster. You’re not concerned with the military, or the government response any more than the average person ought to be in the situation. You become deeply invested in the characters and their survival. For all 2014’s ‘Godzilla’ failed to present the lizard king as akin to a natural disaster, ‘Cloverfield’ made it seem effortless.
The same goes for ’10 Cloverfield Lane’. Remember in ‘Independence Day’, immediately after the destruction of the White House, there’s a sense that the world has been completely lost? What if you could see a story where the characters ran with that idea, gave up hope, and burrowed underground. What would those people be like? That’s ’10 Cloverfield Lane’, and it’s an entirely more intelligent film than the ones it takes its cues from.
But with ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’, you aren’t given a clever take on the space exploration movie, you’re just given yet another space exploration movie. One that doesn’t seem to know what its central plot point is. Throughout the movie, you will be witness to a series of strange and, extremely unsettling scenarios. They’re inventive, and play on your feelings of uneasiness for things that ought to be one way, but aren’t. The problem is, the movie moves so quickly from one scenario to the next, you quickly shake off that uneasiness, and sort of just sit in for the ride.
That’s partially also due to the movie’s tone. It feels like it should be darker than it is, but just the way the film is lit doesn’t exactly convey that. It doesn’t help that the characters never truly feel like they’re affected by the things they see. When Steve Buscemi gets a bout of space dementia in Armageddon, it’s stupid. It comes out of nowhere and feels entirely unearned. To use it is a lazy way to convey tension and conflict within a character. I would’ve killed for someone to get space dementia in ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’.
On the whole, ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ is not a very good film. It is also not a very bad film. It is simply a movie that is. Things happen, and then they’re moved on from. The visuals stick with you, but not at all because of the context the movie gives them. There’s plenty of creativity in ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’, but not very much of it ties together.
Rating: Catch It On Cable