The Cloverfield Paradox Review
So far it's been a good week at the offices of Paramount Pictures. The trailer for the next hugely successful film in the Mission Impossible franchise has been released while horror and sci-fi fans are eagerly anticipating the forthcoming releases of A Quiet Place and Annihilation. Some lucky soul is also due a hefty bonus for managing to dump an absolute disaster from their books thus avoiding a significant loss at the box office. Rising production costs and delayed release dates are rarely a good sign and a succession of surprises around The Cloverfield Paradox were quickly lined up on Super Bowl night. The world discovered that not only were Netflix now in possession of the film, but the release of the first trailer was quickly followed by the announcement it was available for streaming. It was almost as if Netflix knew pulling off a marketing stunt never seen before could be the films only saving grace. But who needs such cynicism at a time like this?
Ten minutes into The Cloverfield Paradox and you might begin to understand why Netflix opted to rip up the traditional movie advertising manual. The third part of the J.J. Abrams produced franchise is the sort of stain that doesn't come out in the wash. Where the solid direction of the first two films allowed the audience to overlook their tenuous connection, the third is a sorry excuse of an idea jammed into the middle attempting to make a coherent whole, dragging along a strong collection of actors and leaving them face down in the dirt. The best advice would be to stay there and eat it up long enough for this whole embarrassment to pass by.
Roger Davies and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are the first casualties to appear on screen, playing husband and wife Michael and Ava respectively. The start of a never ending stream of exposition tells us the earth is running out of energy resources. As some sort of scientist, Ava has been asked to join a crew heading into space to assist in a particle-accelerator experiment now seen as the world's last chance of survival. An obligatory bleeding heart story is used to create wafer thin emotional leverage between Michael and Ava in a relationship which never feels believable, and similarly no background is given to the other members of the multinational crew onboard the ship. Schmidt (Daniel Bruhl), Kiel (David Oyelowo), Mundy (Chris O'Dowd), Monk (John Ortiz), Volkov (Aksel Hennie) and Tam (Ziyi Zhang) are the poor suckers left out on a limb in every way imaginable.
Thankfully, director Julius Onah unintentionally keeps the laughs coming thick and fast, scraping bits and pieces from any number of science fiction universes to cobble together a story ready to completely dispense with the idea of logic. With the constraints of reason no longer a concern, Onah has the freedom to shape an abstract narrative in an attempt to excuse the total lack of thought that went into bringing Oren Uziel's script to the screen. Converging dimensions, severed limbs, characters appearing out of nowhere and worm vomit make up some of the jamboree of ideas flashing by with sight of the final credits the only escape route for everyone involved.
Zhang's inclusion in the cast also seems designed to exploit the Chinese market, which if true is a horrible misuse of a fine actress. She is the only non-English speaking member of a crew including Russians and Germans (Daniel Bruhl even speaks Mandarin), and with Netflix attempting to secure a larger slice of the Chinese audience you can see why they were tempted to scoop up a film featuring one of China's biggest international stars speaking the local dialect.
The amazing news is Cloverfield 4, (Overload as it is reportedly titled) is already in the can, this time set during World War II featuring supernatural Nazis in one form or another. In some respects it's a relief to know The Cloverfield Paradox hasn't realised the full potential of how ridiculous the franchise can become. Possibly the only redeeming feature about this third instalment is it feels slightly more cinematic than most Netflix film releases. Of course, Paramount can take the credit there and no amount of wretched processing to turn it into a made-for-TV film can prevent that. This is VOD trash at its best, or should that be its worst? Maybe it all depends on which dimension you're stuck in while you watch it.