Review: The Cloverfield Paradox | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Review: The Cloverfield Paradox

Film Critic Matt Taylor is disappointed by the latest in the Cloverfield franchise: The Cloverfield Paradox, Netflix's exclusive new release

These Cloverfield movies are an interesting bunch. The first, released in 2008, was a straightforward found-footage monster movie, and was a hit with critics and audiences alike. Instead of opting for a simple sequel, the writing/producing team (composed at its core of Drew Goddard, JJ Abrams, and Matt Reeves) decided to work outwards rather than forwards, and March 2016 saw the release of 10 Cloverfield Lane, a claustrophobic thriller that worked brilliantly until its ending, when we’re left wishing it wasn’t a Cloverfield film. Now, nearly two years later, Netflix have suddenly dropped the third film in the franchise: The Cloverfield Paradox. And, as much as it pains me to say this, it’s rubbish.

But let’s start with some positives, of which there are two. Firstly, it looks pretty: it’s set almost entirely in space, and exterior shots of the spaceship (the Cloverfield Station – which isn’t a name that makes sense within the established parameters of what “Cloverfield” is within this universe) are really quite something. The design of the ship feels new, and as a whole it’s just rather nice to look at. The film also has a decent score, thanks to The Walking Dead’s Bear McCreary; it certainly isn’t memorable, but it does what it needs to and it does it well.

As much as it pains me to say this, it’s rubbish
Sadly, those are the only two good things to say about the film. The rest of it is, frankly, awful. In keeping with the film’s unusual marketing, I won’t reveal any aspects of the plot here, but it’s safe to say that much of it doesn’t make a lick of sense. It’s as if logic has been jettisoned from the airlock and left behind in an alternate dimension; as one of the characters herself admits “logic doesn’t apply to any of this”. At times it’s so unbelievably stupid for so many reasons that are (unfortunately) too spoilery to go into, but there are many instances where we’re left either scratching our heads and thinking “hang on … what?” or screaming at the TV in frustration that the film is almost unbearable to watch. Having said that, it isn’t boring. It’s a far cry from being as exciting or tense as it thinks it is, admittedly, but the film somehow manages to avoid being dull – that’s something that makes about as much sense as the film itself.

The characters, then. Is there a saving grace to be found here? Sadly not. Despite a great cast (including Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daniel Bruhl, Chris O’Dowd, Elizabeth Debicki and David Oyewolo), none of the characters are at all memorable. The script is so poor that we barely get to know them at all before they start getting bumped off, and any attempts at emotion feel contrived and forced to the point where we don’t feel a thing when one of them dies. On top of this, their motivations are all over the show. One character eventually becomes a sort of villain, because for some reason the film thinks it needs one, and, while their motivations for being so are understandable, their actions come completely out of nowhere; they haven’t even been hinted at before they start shooting people.

It has a tendency to explain things that should be obvious to a team of scientists
The actions of David Oyewolo’s captain are also extremely questionable, particularly those in relation to Mbatha-Raw’s Hamilton, the film’s true main character. She’s supposed to be what grounds the film, and is the only one given any kind of backstory, but this just feels so dry and predictable that we can’t invest anything in it, and the parts of the story that follow her husband back on earth go absolutely nowhere, apart from letting Roger Davies do some aggressive shouting right at the end of the film.

The abysmal script does nothing to help the situation. Aside from its poor development of characters, it has a tendency to explain things that should be obvious to a team of scientists, purely for the audience’s sake. Granted, exposition needs to be delivered somehow, but Paradox seems to be completely unaware of the golden rule of “show don’t tell” (apart from when it shows things that aren’t explained in the slightest, and then it becomes frustrating). In addition, it contradicts so many things set out in the original Cloverfield. The explanations offered here go entirely against what we’ve previously seen, and the cliffhanger that the film tries to end on loses its impact because of this. And not only does it fail to do the most basic things, a lot of it is just ridiculous. A sentient arm is a plot device. A sentient arm. If anyone can offer an explanation as to how and why this got through so many levels of production, then I’m all ears. All in all, a poor show.

Verdict: A bumbling, shambling, shameful mess of a sci-fi that feels like a cross between Prometheus, Oblivion, and Alien, but isn’t a patch on any of them. While the efforts that it makes to expand the series are almost admirable, they fall entirely flat and have no impact whatsoever. Man, I miss the days when Cloverfield was just a monster movie.




17th February 2018 at 9:00 am

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