The third installment of the Cloverfield franchise has seen many changes leading up to its eventual surprise release on Netflix. Originally set for a theatrical release from Paramount, the film changed dates, titles and its release platform, dropping on Netflix on the night of Super Bowl 52.
Little was known about the film, including the title, premise and cast. With the working title of God Particle, the thought was to have the film set in space while still maintaining continuity in the overall universe in which the film is set. Upon starting the film, seeing the casting credits was certainly a pleasant surprise. Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Davod Oyelowo, Chris O’Dowd, Daniel Bruhl and Elizabeth Debicki, Paradox seemed to have a great ensemble cast that could carry this third entry.
The plot of the film sees an international team of scientists aboard a space station trying to create a sustainable energy source for the people of earth. References to outbreaks of global wars can be seen and heard on news snippets, making the mission all the more important. The themes of the film are very relatable to real-life scenarios of what could happen should we ever run out of energy sources to sustain human life on earth. After a “successful” test of the station’s particle accelerator, the crew is transported to an alternate dimension.
The use of sci-fi themes like space travel, alternate dimensions, parallel universes and advanced technology is something fans of the genre can certainly appreciate and get behind. However, the execution of the use of these tropes did not deliver, which will be discussed later in this review. The film did a decent job dividing the crew based on paranoia, especially with the happenings of the wars going on back on earth. Characters Schmidt and Volkov are at odds, as Germany is set to invade Russia.
Mbatha-Raw’s character, Hamilton, sees the most character development, as we see her video interactions with her husband and learn about the tragic back story of the fate of her children. The moral dilemma of Hamilton’s desire to want to go to the version of earth in the new dimension the crew is currently inhabiting will bring about inner-reflection to the film’s viewers, prompting each viewer to put themselves in her shoes and ask themselves if they’d want to do the same.
The film’s moment of levity comes in the form of Chris O’Dowd’s character, Mundy, as he loses an arm only to see the arm gain some kind of sentience. The arm begins to move on its own and delivers a warning message. Mundy’s reactions and jokes were pretty comical in an otherwise dour film.
Aside from the character of Hamilton, the remainder of the characters saw little-to-no development. We weren’t given back stories on any of them, making certain deaths anticlimactic. Audiences aren’t really given a reason to care about any of the remaining characters and are sure to be left confused as to what is actually happening in this Cloverfield world. It felt like a weird cross between an episode of Black Mirror and Alien, but without the good parts. And where the heck did Elizabeth Debicki’s character, Jennings, come from? Why did the crew have a giant worm farm onboard the space station and how did the worms, and the missing gyroscope, end up inside of Volkov? There are plenty of dangling plot threads left un-sewn into the fabric of this film.
The issues on earth seemingly do not revolve around or mention a giant monster wreaking havoc, as seen in the original Cloverfield film or at the end of 10 Cloverfield Lane. One would think that a giant monster would be the world’s biggest problem, trumping depleted energy sources, but alas, we don’t hear one word about it.
It’s very easy to see just why this film ended up on Netflix and avoided a theatrical release, as the acting, visual effects, and plot would most likely have garnered financial trouble for Paramount. To put it plainly: this movie just wasn’t very good. Flat characters, confusing plot points, and bad storytelling all added to the mess of a film that is The Cloverfield Paradox.
Though 10 Cloverfield Lane was also set in this universe, the film didn’t have all that much connective tissue to the first film, but Paradox goes beyond this point. There are a few references and Easter Eggs that fans of the franchise will pick up on, such as actress Suzanne Cryer appearing as a newscaster in this film. Cryer could also be seen breaking into the bunker from 10 Cloverfield Lane. Donal Logue also makes a cameo as an author named Mark Stambler, the “brother” of john Goodman’s character, Howard, from 10 Cloverfield Lane. During the film, Hamilton’s husband along, with a young girl seek refuge in the bunker from 10 Cloverfield Lane. These references barely do enough to create the cohesion needed to connect the films, aside from the shot of the actual Cloverfield monster at the end of the film.