Ten years ago, JJ Abrams produced a found footage movie called “Cloverfield”. Frankly, I was not a fan. Sure, the concept was unique, the creature design for the monster was great, and the cast was made up of top notch up and comers. That being said, it was a JJ Abrams production, and JJ loves, loves, loves, LOVES for his projects to be complete mysteries to the public, including what the hell the movies are about. The advertising to “Cloverfield” was so misleading, there was even a theory that it was actually a secretive, live-action adaptation of Voltron! In my humble opinion, the movie was just a cluster mess of shaky cam, and as good as Abrams’ intentions were to create the American version of Godzilla, I simply can’t get past the fact that the movie looks like the cameraman drank four shots of Espresso coffee that was filtered through with Red Bull instead of water.
Two years ago, another little flick called “10 Cloverfield Lane” was released. It was vastly, vastly, VASTLY superior to “Cloverfield” in every possible way. With it, we got a great and frightening performance by the usually cheery John Goodman, a smart, self-sufficient, female protagonist with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and a “what a twist” ending that would make M. Night Shyamalan proud. But it also created the “Cloverfield Franchise”, in which a series of anthology movies are made with very loose ties to one another, mostly with the name “Cloverfield”, and apparently a Japanese soft drink (look it up). Sadly, this idea is proving to be a giant misstep. Outside of “10 Cloverfield Lane”, these movies are not on par with anything produced by “Black Mirror” or “The Twilight Zone”.
We’re now in the third installment of the “franchise”, this latest movie has gone through a series of titles, from “God Particle”, to “Cloverfield Station”, to now “Cloverfield Paradox”. Not to mention the movie had no marketing to it whatsoever, and the release date kept on being moved around. Yeah, whenever a movie has production problems like this, that’s not a good sign. Oh, and there’s already a fourth movie made, currently entitled “Overlord”, and it will have something to do with zombie Nazis. Sorry, but Zack Snyder already beat you to that with “Suckerpunch”. In case you haven’t noticed, no, I didn’t care for this latest installment of the “franchise”.
“The Cloverfield Paradox” is about a space station in orbit that is trying to use a particle accelerator in order to fix an energy problem that’s happening on Earth, in the year 2028. Aboard said space station are character actors such as Gugu Mbatha-Raw (who I loved and adored in “Beyond The Lights”), David Oyelowo (as the ship’s captain, no less), Daniel Bruhl (Baron Zemo!), Chris O’Dowd (because comedic relief), Ziyi Zhang (because Chinese market), and Elizabeth Debicki (who is freakishly tall, yet strangely and otherworldly beautiful at times). Sadly, with all this talent in front of the camera, none of them are given much to work with for any of them to give a standout performance, save for one monologue that Mbatha-Raw has near the end of the movie.
Getting back to the “plot”, the crew fire off the particle accelerator, which apparently sends them into an alternate dimension, where apparently the laws of physics don’t really matter, leads to weird things happening without any apparent reasons why they are happening besides “oh, look at these odd visuals we made, aren’t they cool?”. I’ll answer that for you, no, they are not cool. Said visuals range from nearly ripping off the chest bursting scene from “Alien”, to a sequence involving O’Dowd’s arm that jumps around in tone from creepy to hilarious, to being a poor man’s “Event Horizon” in terms of body horror. There’s even some of “Sunshine” mixed in for good measure. In other words, this movie is a Frankenstein’s monster that doesn’t know what it wants to be, because it’s “borrowing” from every movie before it, except every movie before it was done better.
There’s a small spark of good ideas in this movie. The world is going to war over energy, that’s good and kind of relevant. Alternate dimensions and worlds, it’s being overused thanks to the CW/DC TV series, but the possibilities are endless. A surprise return of the Cloverfield monster, that’s welcomed, but it’s just throwing a bone to the fans of the original movie, and nothing more. Seriously, with all the potential you can do with this “franchise”, you make a generic space station movie with the crew dying one by one through supernatural incidents. That’s been done time and time again, and you’re not providing anything new with this movie. Big budgeted sci-fi movies have done it; smaller, indie sci-fi movies have done it. Just because you slap the “Cloverfield” name to this flick doesn’t make it anything special.
What really annoys the hell out of me is that Netflix was sold a bill of goods by Paramount, the studio that was originally going to release this movie in theaters. I can respect Netflix for airing the movie right after the Superbowl ended, as it is a bold move that challenges the usual media circus that happens before, during, and after the “Big Game” every year. But beyond that, Paramount was in the right to get rid of this stinker of a movie. Now I’m worried for “Annihilation”, another sci-fi movie that Paramount sold the international streaming rights to Netflix before the American theatrical release. Granted, “Annihilation” has a far more talented writer and director helming it, and it’s not just another installment of a film series with no real goal or endgame to it. Unless one of these Cloverfield movies is going to end with a big reveal of all the remaining characters from each movie coming together, Avengers-style, to fight the big bad monster, what is the point of these movies besides jerking the audience around?
“The Cloverfield Paradox” gets a pitiful 2 out of 5 stars, and that’s being generous, and based mostly on how good the space station design is, and two moments where Mbatha-Raw gives a legitimately great performance. Don’t bother with this movie. It doesn’t do anything all that original with the space station horror genre. It doesn’t even tell a coherent story, when you stop to think about it. It’s more like a string of ideas, but there’s nothing connecting them together. I feel bad for everyone who had anything to do with the production of this movie, and I feel even worse for Netflix for spending the money to get it onto their service and then advertising for it during the most watched television event of the year. Watch “Beyond The Lights” instead. Mbatha-Raw gives a far better performance in it, she’s beautiful through out the flick, and she wears cropped tops or bikini tops in nearly every scene. Or watch “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Salma”, “Captain America: Civil War”, “The IT Crowd”, “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2”, or anything else that these actors have starred in, because even the worst movie they have starred in before this one, is far superior. *exhales sharply* How was that for rage-filled rant
Featured image: Movie poster.