The Cloverfield Paradox Review

Netflix’s huge swoop up and surprise Super Bowl release of the newest film in the “Cloverfield” film universe should prove to be a daring stroke of movie-distributing genius – if for no other reason than it should help generate big ratings for a film that would’ve otherwise been killed by bad word of mouth.

Initially called “God Particle,” the film was adopted by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot into the “Cloverfield” family mostly after the fact, but its connection to the ambiguous mythology of cinema’s most secretive franchise doesn’t do anything to elevate this predictable “diverse crew in a space station” thriller.

Oren Uziel (“22 Jump Street”) and Doug Jung’s (“Star Trek Beyond”) story imagines an energy-depleted world in desperately depending on the success of a particle accelerator experiment on board a station manned by scientists and engineers from various nations. Uziel’s script launches quickly into the experiment, providing only a personal look into Hamilton’s (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) life before frustrations, tension and unnatural occurrences rise.

After Dan Trachtenberg’s pulse-pounding claustrophobic 2016 thriller “10 Cloverfield Lane” married a smaller chamber piece with a sci-fi disaster flick, it felt safe to hope director Julius Onah might do the same with an “Alien”-inspired space opera. The pieces are in place, but “The Cloverfield Paradox” quickly devolves into a carbon copy of the many space-station films before it, wasting a juicy cast including Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Bruhl, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris O’Dowd and others.

For one, the script shoehorns in too much exposition to cue the viewer into what’s going on rather than keeping it a mystery, and in the end there’s not much mystery to be revealed except for whether the mission will succeed. In the meantime, creepy stuff begins happening to members of the crew in a series of familiar, contrived on-board disasters that result in character deaths, betrayals and the usual outer-space plot devices.

Many concepts in the film hold promise, but the execution in the writing and direction fails them in every way. From the “explanation” to what’s going on to some character debacles to the way the film connects to “Cloverfield,” there are potentially intriguing ideas at play that would’ve provided the film with just enough food for thought to separate it from the rest of this sub-genre. Instead, they get as woefully undercooked as the characters, leaving “The Cloverfield Paradox” with no option but to try to work as a space station survival story and pretend as if we haven’t seen it all before.

Fans of the “Cloverfield” films will probably find some joy in the more explicit connections and explanations “Paradox” offers, but some of those fans will also likely be incensed at just how the mystery is unfolding and the technical nuts and bolts of it. The previous two films were microcosms and smaller stories-in “Paradox,” humanity’s survival is wrapped up in a very public, high profile space mission. Instead of teasing us with mysteries, “Paradox” paints more of a picture of what this franchise is about and it does so carelessly.

Sadly, rather than light a fire under the franchise and increase our appetite for more from this anthology, “Paradox” sucks some of the clout and intrigue out from it. Instead of seeing the name “Cloverfield” and thinking “mysteries and secrets,” after watching “Paradox,” audiences are more likely to associate it with “gimmick.”


2/5 Stars


The Cloverfield Paradox
Directed by Julius Onah
Written by Oren Uziel, Doug Jung
Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Chris O’Dowd, Ziyi Zhang, Daniel Bruhl, Elizabeth Debicki


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