The Cloverfield Paradox Review

Warning: This Cloverfield Paradox review contains spoilers.

The curious, accidental Cloverfield franchise gets a new addition with the long-delayed The Cloverfield Paradox. After lengthy reshoots, and shuffling through various possible release dates, this latest entry in the Cloverfield series made history with a surprise trailer dropped during the Super Bowl, and a surprise release on Netflix immediately following the game. But is it a step in the right direction for the series, or a major misfire? 

There’s something to be celebrated here: keeping The Cloverfield Paradox top-secret and making it suddenly available on Netflix is a way to ensure that everyone has a chance to view the film on the same level playing field. There’s no early buzz, no early hype, no early negative word. Everyone goes in fresh. That’s the positive way of looking at things. The negative way would be to say that the producers behind The Cloverfield Paradox, including J.J. Abrams, realized the film was such a colossal dud that they knew they’d be better off dumping it onto a streaming platform instead of going through the trouble of a wide theatrical release.

Originally titled God Particle, The Cloverfield Paradox hails from an original screenplay by Oren Uziel. Like the surprisingly excellent 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Cloverfield Paradox did not begin its life as a Cloverfield sequel. Yet at some point, producer J.J. Abrams and the folks at Bad Robot got ahold of the project and tailored it to fit into the franchise. This could’ve worked – it worked for 10 Cloverfield Lane, after all. But for some truly strange reason, a decision was made to tie this film more directly to the original Cloverfield. As a result, The Cloverfield Paradox becomes two completely different movies, and neither holds water.

There is a good movie in here, somewhere. A longer runtime, giving the narrative more room to breathe and the characters more development, would’ve been a wiser choice. Instead, The Cloverfield Paradox is rushed to the extreme, sprinting towards a conclusion that ultimately feels like a huge middle finger to an audience that wants nothing more than to see this franchise succeed.

Cloverfield Paradox cast

Cloverfield In Space

When The Cloverfield Paradox opens, an energy crisis is close to bringing the world to its knees. The only solution is to send a team of diverse, international astronauts up to the Cloverfield Space Station, where they’ll use a particle accelerator dubbed The Shepherd that will somehow magically fix all of earth’s problems. Among the crew is Ava Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who is still coming to terms with her grief over the death of her two children.

In one of the film’s best touches, director Julius Onah covers a period of days, weeks, months and ultimately years before the opening credits have finished. We’re presented with a montage of sorts with the crew preparing for their world-saving mission aboard the space station, all while a digital clock on the wall ticks off how long they’ve been in space, counting all the way up to a whopping 623 days. Around day 694, the team is ready to fire up that particle accelerator, and before anyone has even touched a button, we know this won’t end well.

We know this because The Cloverfield Paradox is loaded with clunky exposition, where characters are prone to say things like “If we don’t do this, there won’t be enough energy left in the whole world.” Mere minutes before the crew of the Cloverfield Space Station turns on The Shepherd, they watch a news interview with a scientist (Donal Logue, in a quick cameo) warning that turning on the particle accelerator will be super bad and likely create a rift in time and space and possible unleash demons. Yes, he really uses the word demons.

Sure enough, after the crew flips the switch, shit hits the fan. After some minor destruction to their ship (and a brief loss of gravity), the crew composes themselves only to discover, with more annoyance than outright terror, that the earth has vanished. This is a great set-up – the kind of idea that makes for a truly stellar episode of The Twilight Zone. Unfortunately, once The Cloverfield Paradox presents us with this, it then proceeds to race clumsily towards a silly conclusion that borders on nonsensical.

Meanwhile, back on the (vanished) earth, Ava’s husband Michael (Roger Davies) is dealing with his own problems. There’s a giant, unseen presence storming through the city, laying waste to everything. The Cloverfield Paradox takes great pains to not show us the creature destroying the city, but it’s clear to anyone familiar with the franchise that this is meant to be the same monster from the original Cloverfield. The question is: why? Why is this subplot in the movie at all? I doubt anyone involved with the film could provide a concrete answer to this question.

Back on the space station, things go from bad to worse very quickly. In a truly effective, nightmarish sequence, the crew finds a woman walled up inside a hallway, her body bloody and entangled with pipes and wires. Once they free the woman (played by Elizabeth Debicki) and treat her wounds, she shocks everyone even more by revealing she knows all of them, and that she was, in fact, a member of their crew. Of course, the crew has no idea who this woman is, or where she came from. Slowly but surely it all becomes clear: the particle accelerator has zapped our characters into a parallel dimension. So far so good, right? Well, don’t get too comfortable. 

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About the Author

Chris Evangelista has contributed to /Film, CutPrintFilm, RogerEbert.com, Nerdist, Mashable, and more. Follow him on Twitter @cevangelista413 or email him at chris@chrisevangelista.net