The Cloverfield Paradox

Released on Netflix with virtually no fanfare or warning, THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX completely took audiences by surprise. The film’s teaser trailer promised viewers that it would provide answers to what caused the events of the first CLOVERFIELD film, and it certainly delivers on that promise. But while the ties to the CLOVERFIELD franchise do ultimately elevate the final product, the film’s main storyline is incredibly intriguing on its own.

THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX is primarily a story about a group of astronauts aboard a space station. Earth is facing an energy crisis of epic proportions, and the crew of the space station is tasked with testing a particle accelerator to create an endless energy source. But once the test begins, the particle accelerator overloads and the crew discovers that Earth has vanished. Meanwhile, a subplot focuses on Earth as the events of the original CLOVERFIELD film are shown from a different perspective.

The acting in THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX is something of a mixed bag, despite the incredibly talented cast. The lead character, Ava Hamilton, is played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and she is played to perfection. Ava is the only character in the film to have any kind of character growth, and Mbatha-Raw gives the character the perfect amount of strength and vulnerability. It’s easy to feel her character’s pain and indecision, and her emotional arc feels earned by the time the film ends.

The film has some unexpected comedic moments, thanks to Chris O’Dowd’s character. In addition, Aksel Hennie’s character adds a great underlying menace and paranoia to the film’s atmosphere. But to my disappointment, David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, John Ortiz, and Zhang Ziyi all play very one-note characters that experience no character growth throughout the film. That’s not to say that the acting is bad – it’s just that the vast majority of characters in THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX are very forgettable.

The film has an excellent score by Bear McCreary. The music suits the film perfectly, capturing the tense emotions of the film in a bombastic fanfare that serves the film well. The film also boasts some very impressive special effects and costumes.

The concept of parallel worlds and alternate dimensions is at the heart of THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX, and what is really cool about the film is that it leaves a lot of interpretation up to the viewer. There is a lot of really crazy stuff that happens in this film (teleportation, a sentient severed arm, and some stomach-churning body horror), and the film embraces the insanity. This is the kind of film that will lead its more passionate viewers to discussion forums online to dissect the film and find hidden Easter eggs that tie the film to the first two CLOVERFIELD films.

THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX was originally called GOD PARTICLE, and it originally had no ties to the CLOVERFIELD franchise. Watching the film, you can tell which portions were added after it became a CLOVERFIELD film – namely, the Earth-based scenes and a scene where a pundit gives an interview explaining “the Cloverfield paradox” – the idea that the particle accelerator testing could rip open the fabric of space and time and unleash all sorts of monsters on Earth. The scenes don’t necessarily feel out of place, but they do feel like late additions – whereas the space station scenes feel like a big budget sci-fi film, there’s a claustrophobic feeling to the Earth scenes that make it feel emptier than it should be.

It was an interesting choice to align THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX so closely with CLOVERFIELD. After the release of 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, it was theorized that CLOVERFIELD was simply an anthology series of sci-fi films – much to the chagrin of fans of the original film that were hoping to see more of the iconic monster. But THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX doubles down on its connection with the original film and sets itself as the origin story for all the CLOVERFIELD films. While I don’t think the film series needed an explicit origin story, I appreciate the effort taken to give these stories a common thread.

There’s a lot of really interesting ideas packed into THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX, and hardcore fans will spend a lot of time mining the film for theories and clues as to what is in store next for the franchise. I’m a sucker for science fiction, and while the film’s acting takes a backseat to plotting, I don’t think it ultimately hurts the film that much. The core concept of this film is so intriguing, and the film moves at a brisk pace. THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX also has an incredibly satisfying ending, managing to be both completely unexpected and yet utterly sublime in its simplicity. For fans of the CLOVERFIELD franchise and original sci-fi concepts, THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX is a really enjoyable experience.

review-four-stars