Film review | The Clovefield Paradox

It’s a shame that Cloverfield Paradox does very little to live up to either the promise of its predecessors or the supposedly “bold” tactic of releasing it with very little fanfare by eschewing a conventional cinematic • 2/5

Resistance is futile: Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Cloverfield Paradox
Resistance is futile: Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Cloverfield Paradox

When the Matt Reeves-directed, J.J. Abrams-produced Cloverfield first hit cinemas in 2008, there wasn’t anything quite like it. An alien-invasion flick taking the Blair Witch Project route, it made for a fresh take on hackneyed material.

One of the most worthwhile and enduring aspects of the whole endeavour – penned by Drew Goddard – was that it gave audiences a more immediate, visceral feel of a genre traditionally only too fond of grandiose crane shots. This time, we were forced to look up at the devastation wrought by extra-terrestrial invaders from the ground up, only catching fleeting glimpses of the creatures in question.

The ingenuity of the concept ended up following through the franchise’s narrative and marketing campaign. When 10 Cloverfield Lane was released last year, there was no mention of it forming part of the Cloverfield series until its official title was unveiled. E

ven then, anyone wandering into the film with no knowledge of its supposed predecessor would have been none the wiser – the film works perfectly as a taut drama in which a creepy conspiracy theorist (played by John Goodman) keeps two young people (Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr) hostage in a bunker, supposedly for their own safety, convinced as he is that an invading alien force has reduced the world into a hostile war zone.

And now, another surprise entry in the series has popped up at the last minute – and it’s accessible to all just a click away, on Netflix. Eschewing a cinematic release for what was originally meant to be a standalone film, Paramount Studios have decided to re-purpose the script for Oren Uziel’s sci-fi thriller ‘God Particle’ into an entry to the loosely-connected Cloverfield franchise... and let it run free on the Netflix streaming platform.

Need a hand? Julius Onah’s film is a lukewarm retread
Need a hand? Julius Onah’s film is a lukewarm retread

Sadly, however, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And this meal feels like a last-minute bowl of student ramen reheated with improvised spices in the hopes that nobody would notice its tawdry provenance.

The year is 2028, and the Earth is suffering through a global energy crisis. In a desperate effort to generate power, the earth’s space agencies send a particle accelerator up into space, manned by the Cloverfield Station. Those optimistic about the project pin their hopes on its success generating infinite energy for everyone. Conspiracy theorists, however, claim that such meddling could create the “Cloverfield Paradox”, which would cause temporal and molecular rifts and even open portals to dangerous alien creatures.

Captained by Kiel (David Oyelowo), among the Cloverfield Station’s international melting pot of a crew is Ava Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who has left behind a loving husband, Michael (Roger Davies) on earth to pursue this make-it-or-break-it mission. But when one of the station’s encounters with the particle accelerator lumps the ship with a mysterious guest, Mina Jensen (Elizabeth Debicki) who claims to have been aboard an earlier iteration of the same crew, things take a turn for the truly weird. Life-threateningly weird.

While on one level, Cloverfield Paradox – directed by the Nigerian-American filmmaker Julius Onah – works just fine as a pseudo-Alien space-bound thriller, its lazy and unimaginative execution just screams lack of vision and wasted potential.

It wastes an otherwise stellar and game cast – which also includes the likes of Chris O’Dowd and Daniel Bruhl – while also never quite managing to get the most out of what could have been an intriguingly knotted game of spatio-temporal paradoxes and surreal, stomach-churning threats. A worm-infested corpse and a crawling-and-writing severed hand feel both tame and nonsensical when compared to what we’ve seen before in the same sub-genre.

The verdict

With an overqualified cast and riding the coattails of an inspired and successful franchise, it’s a shame that Cloverfield Paradox does very little to live up to either the promise of its predecessors or the supposedly “bold” tactic of releasing it with very little fanfare by eschewing a conventional cinematic. Because as it turns out, this cliche-ridden mess was simply carted off to Netflix for reasons that should become blindingly obvious to anyone five minutes in. Still, there is something resembling a servicable B-movie grade sci-fi thriller in there. It’s just a shame that it had to tarnish one of the more inspired genre franchises of the century so far. Those looking for a truly thrilling and thematically rich space opera to sink their teeth into would be far better served by The Expanse. Handily enough, it’s also available to stream on Netflix...

 

Cloverfield Paradox is currently streaming on Netflix

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