In a break from the Retro, George McGhee checks out The Cloverfield Paradox. Does the film live up to the clever marketing hype? Will it fall foul of the poor third film rule? Does it make sense? Read on to find out.
In a nutshell: 2028. The world is gripped by an energy crisis, dwindling resources and nations on the verge of war. An international team of scientists try and solve the crisis by testing a particle accelerator on board a space station. After two years of testing, they finally have a breakthrough, but with unexpected and terrifying results.
JJ Abram’s Cloverfield franchise – if it can be called such a thing – has always strived for mystery and surprise via some innovative marketing. The original teased audiences with clever marketing and shook up the found footage formula with a unique take on Godzilla. It’s pseudo-sequel or “blood relative” 10 Cloverfield Lane, again, pretty much came out of nowhere, receiving even better reviews. It appeared the Cloverfield name was turning into a cinematic Black Mirror, each independent subversive science fiction thrillers, with shared themes and Easter eggs.
Like it’s predecessor, The Cloverfield Paradox started off as an original script called God Particle and has been retooled to fit into the Cloverfield universe. However this time around, the secret was out with the production being quite well publicized in the film world. People knew a rough plot outline and the cast, just no idea of when it would be released. Eyebrows were certainly raised when Netflix picked up the film off Paramount late in post production – could that mean the film was a stinker?
The clever marketing was yet in play once more, as the release date was dropped on us in a matter of hours. Advance word suggested Netflix would show the first trailer during the 2018 Superbowl. As well as promising answers to the ambiguity of the original Cloverfield, the teaser’s biggest surprise was that the film was ready to stream immediately after the game.
On watching the film, it appears the clever marketing ploy from Netflix was an attempt to cover up the film’s shortcomings. They clearly wanted to get as many people to watch it before those pesky critics could upload their reviews advising otherwise. Sadly, The Cloverfield Paradox is a messy misfire. An interesting premise, brooding score and impressive actors unfortunately can’t save this muddled film. The cast try to make the best of their thinly sketched characters but it’s hard to root for them. Like Prometheus, to see intelligent people – scientists – make such silly and illogical decisions is frustrating.
The main problem is the plot excuses itself of any real logic. The particle accelerator that mashes the different realities together whilst making the crew suffer in creative ways is also a giant get of jail free card. At one point a character tells the crew “Logic doesn’t apply to any of this.” The whole point of a mystery story is that most things are worked out in the end. Sadly here, there’s only one answer to all questions. Why the did room lock behind that character and start flooding? Um…Alternate reality. Why and how did the guy painlessly lose an arm?! Well that’s easy, because of alternate reality.
Like time travel, there’s so much creative potential for alternate reality stories (check out the low-budget film, [amazon_textlink asin=’B00PY6PDPW’ text=’Coherence’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’retroramble-21′ marketplace=’UK’ link_id=’ebed54f8-1e01-11e8-a96d-674b6fd3e1f8′] (2013) or some of Philip K Dick’s short stories. Even Rick and Morty, for a cartoon, manages to cover far more interesting inter-dimensional tales in a quarter of the time, with interesting characters and manages to be very funny. Yet in Paradox, such subjects are squandered. It’s a shame as the space set story does have some good bits, despite being reminiscent of other better sci-fi thrillers like Alien, Event Horizon, The Thing, even Sunshine (which whilst a good film, was also quite derivative).
Maybe it was the prior knowledge, but it’s blatantly obvious which parts of the film have been shoehorned into fit under the Cloverfield banner. All the Earth set stuff appears to have been done on the cheap with dialogue is so on the nose, it’s like it was written on the way to the set.
To Abrams credit, he has always championed using emerging directors for these films. Matt Reeves, director of the original film, went on to make the last two Planet of The Apes films and is currently working on the new Batman film (good luck, mate). Paradox is directed by newbie Julius Onah, and part of me thinks a more seasoned director could have wrestled it into something decent.
At the end of the day, the film’s ambition is it’s biggest issue. Trying to link itself to the Cloverfield universe has actually done more damage – as those parts of the story are the weakest. We were promised answers to where the monster from in Cloverfield. Where did it come from? Alternate realities. Abrams recently told Empire Podcast, “the intention has never been to take a movie and then slap Cloverfield on it,” Sorry Jeff, but that’s exactly what The Cloverfield Paradox feels like.
There’s the argument that the film God Particle would have never made it to cinemas as a low-budget sci-fi with no brand recognition. Yes, the Cloverfield name carries such brand recognition, as does the “JJ Abrams presents” tag. However after this film, I think audiences will be a little more wary of such labels. The best intelligent sci-fi doesn’t need a big budget or A-list stars, it just needs good ideas presented clearly. Unfortunately no one told JJ Abrams and Julius Onah.
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