The Cloverfield Paradox is terrible, but you should totally watch it anyway

The Cloverfield Paradox sucks, we watched it so you wouldn't have to

credit: Scott Garfield / Netflix

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In keeping with its forebears' mysterious approach to marketing, the latest entry in the Cloverfield series arrived yesterday, fully formed, on Netflix. Like 10 Cloverfield Lane before it, The Cloverfield Paradox was a standalone film before JJ Abrams and his fellow producers wrestled it into the existing mythology.

The film follows a group of astronauts onboard a space station, who attempt to use a particle accelerator to solve Earth's energy crisis. Upon firing their machine, the crew are transported to another universe and must wrestle with some unexpected side effects while they battle to return.

The reviews have not been favourable, and here's why. Spoilers ahead...

It starts with a whimper

The film opens with Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Roger Davies in a traffic jam, delivering leaden exposition to set up the premise. Compare that with Danny Boyle's Sunshine (a film this owes a huge debt): after a few lines of voiceover from Cillian Murphy, we're up-to-speed and already onboard, all in under a minute.

All the ways The Cloverfield Paradox is terrible

It's a waste of serious talent

The film also features David Oyelowo (Selma, A United Kingdom), Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds, Rush) and Zhang Ziyi (Hero, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and they're underserved by a woeful script.

All the ways The Cloverfield Paradox is terrible

Its moments of comic relief are badly misjudged

Chris O'Dowd is a predominantly comic actor but he's perfectly capable of serious work too. Here, though, the way he responds to each escalating crisis is meant to leaven the mood but it just undermines the tension. First, when the crew realise they've entered a new universe, and subsequently when he realises his arm has been amputated. When the severed arm returns of its own accord it pushes the film towards farce.

All the ways The Cloverfield Paradox is terrible

The multiverse isn't nearly strange enough

Elizabeth Debicki's transdimensional arrival (fused within the ship's wall) is interesting although her subsequent, seemingly instant, full recovery is nonsensical. Otherwise, there's a crew member (Aksel Hennie) who dies for some reason, and O'Dowd loses a fight with a wall before being chewed up by rogue magnetic paste. When Paul WS Anderson's Event Horizon travelled to a different reality, at least it had fun with the premise (the ship had travelled to Hell). Here, it's all a bit half-arsed.

All the ways The Cloverfield Paradox is terrible

The Molly plotline is redundant

We sporadically change viewpoint (and, crucially, universe) to follow Davies as he rescues a young girl (Clover Nee) from the rubble of a hospital on Earth. This serves no purpose, and crossing dimensions like this further erodes the tension invested in the spaceship's mission. There's never any fear that there will be no planet to return to or that time hasn't irrevocably passed by, interesting propositions dealt with in Christopher Nolan's Interstellar and even Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes.

All the ways The Cloverfield Paradox is terrible

The fight scenes are appalling

I've seen better fight choreography on Coronation Street. Look...

The big reveal at the end is a damp squib

Despite all the scope to play around with multiverses, the two surviving crewmates simply find themselves right back in Earth's orbit before returning home by shuttle. As they descend, a giant monster rises above the clouds, the only pertinent connection to the Cloverfield universe, played at the very last moment. And the monster looks like someone in a rubber suit.

The Cloverfield Paradox is on Netflix now.

Comments

1. Ryan T21 Feb 2018, 4:24am

TBH Chris O'Dowd made the movie for me. I'm not sure I would've been able to sit through it all without him making me laugh occasionally. Was disappointed at 2/3 through (enough that I immediately checked to see how much longer was left) when he died, but they got me one last time as I spotted his severed arm tapping its fingers in boredom.

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