Paramount Pictures/Bad Robot Productions/Netflix
Directed by Julius Onah
Produced by J. J. Abrams/Lindsey Webber
Screenplay by Oren Uziel
Story by Oren Uziel/Doug Jung
I have to give credit to the brains behind the marketing of the “Cloverfield” movies. I hope that whoever had the idea of not only dropping a trailer for THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX during the Super Bowl but actually making the movie available for streaming on Netflix right after the Super Bowl itself got a big fat raise. Because it was a genius move. Hey, it got me to watch it last night right after the game, didn’t it? And I’m betting it got you to watch it as well. And if you didn’t watch it last night you’ll probably watch it tonight, am I right?
The movie has a somewhat convoluted history, starting out life as “The God Particle” and just like “10 Cloverfield Place” originally had no connection at all to the Cloverfield universe. Sometime during production, it was decided that “The God Particle” could have a better chance of being more successful financially if it were attached to the Cloverfield franchise. A little rewriting and voila, we got us another installment.
I actually think it’s a good idea to have the Cloverfield series be an anthology of films, giving the opportunity for different stories to be told with different actors and directors (I hear tell the next one is going to be set in World War II). As for THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX being released to Netflix instead of theaters…it’s a move that does make me wonder. After all, “Cloverfield” and “10 Cloverfield Place” did very well both at the box office and with critics. I can’t help but wonder if the hideous crash-and-burn of last year’s “Life” gave The Suits heebie-jeebies about releasing this theatrically or if they realized that the movie had problems that could be best be ignored by just releasing it on Netflix. At least that way they could be guaranteed some social media buzz and a respectable number of people watching it before word-of-mouth spread.
If you absolutely demand diversity in your movie casts then you won’t be disappointed because the crew of the Cloverfield Station are indeed an international collection of scientists. The Earth is suffering from a massive energy crisis that surely will lead to war as the nations of the world start fighting over dwindling energy resources. The crew of Cloverfield Station are testing the Shepard Accelerator, your basic supersized particle accelerator. It had to be built in outer space because the damn thing is so big that when it’s fired up, nobody is really sure of what is going to happen. What everybody hopes is that it will be able to provide unlimited energy for the entire planet.
The crew has been working on the thing for two years and their nerves are raw. Back on Earth there’s another scientist (played by Donal Logue) who is pleading that the thing not be activated as he’s convinced it will rip a role in the fabric of the space/time continuum and when that happens, who knows?
It wouldn’t be much of a horror movie if they didn’t turn the thing on, right? They do. The activation creates a massive power surge that knocks out the systems of the station for a few hours. When the crew gets everything turned back on again they discover that The Earth is gone. Vanished. Disappeared. Poof. Went Bye-Bye.
What happened to The Earth? Did they accidentally destroy it somehow? Are they in another dimension? Did the Shepard Accelerator transport Earth to another dimension? In their efforts to discover and understand what happened to them and to The Earth, one weird thing after another happens to the crew. And that’s when the movie started to go off the rails for me. Because I started getting the feeling that weird shit was happening just because weird shit is supposed to be happening and there really wasn’t a reason for it. The crew runs around the station doing stuff that isn’t clearly explained and as they drop dead one by one, their IQ levels seem to drop as well. I never like it when a movie gives me characters who are supposed to be genius level scientists but they act just as dumb as I do.
The best reason to watch THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX is the cast. Gugu Mbatha-Raw leads the cast as Ava Hamilton, an engineer who harbors some deep personal darkness that colors her every decision in the second half of the movie when she finds a way that she can maybe find some redemption. David Oyelowo does solid work as the mission commander. He’s one of those actors who you know is always going to be dependable no matter what material he’s got to work with. Chris O’Dowd provides the comedy relief and Daniel Bruhl, John Ortiz and Zhang Ziyi all provide fine supporting performances.
But like I said earlier…weird shit just starts happening just because the writer of the screenplay needs for weird shit to happen. It’s never really explained (at least not to my satisfaction) why this stuff is happening. But then there’s a lot the movie just doesn’t bother explaining such as why Zhang Ziyi’s character only speaks in Chinese. Her crewmates understand her and reply to her in Chinese just as good as hers. If in the two years they were aboard the station and they took the time to learn her language why didn’t she learn theirs? How exactly is the Shepard Accelerator supposed to provide power to the entire Earth? Why did the gyroscope end up inside the body of one of the dead crewmen?
One thing I didn’t have to worry about and neither will you is that the movie makes it very clear this takes place in the Cloverfield universe. I got a chuckle out of seeing the Slusho! brand name show up and the name Kelvin must have some sort of special significance for J.J. Abrams as it shows up here three times quite prominently.
Should you watch THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX? If this were in the theaters I’d tell you to save your gas and your money and wait for it to show up on Netflix. So, since it’s already on Netflix, I guess you know where I’m going with this. It’s the weakest of the three “Cloverfield” movies but not an entirely worthless or boring one. And hey, you don’t have to get dressed and go out of the house to see it. It’s a perfectly acceptable Friday or Saturday night time-waster if that’s what you’re in the mood for and if you’ve already seen the other two movies. Lower your expectations and you should be fine.