The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

The Cloverfield franchise has thus far turned out two solid entries that have been marketed either brilliantly or annoyingly depending on who you ask. There’s a lot of intrigue generated by their advertisements, I suppose is the best way to put it. Now we’ve got The Cloverfield Paradox, initially called God Particle, which was supposed to come out in two months but was dropped suddenly onto Netflix without any previous advertisement or press. Well, an absence of marking is still marketing, I suppose, at least in this case. It generated more interest than a traditional campaign would have done.

The initial setup of The Cloverfield Paradox is simple, but intriguing. A group of scientists go into space to test a machine that is able to generate more energy than it uses—effectively, if it works, providing the Earth with an infinite amount of energy. It’s so dangerous that they have to go to space in case the experiment goes wrong. Something like two years pass with no results, as shown during the opening credits. As the movie opens, the scientists only have enough resources to try a couple of additional times.

Not shockingly, the experiment fails—but fails in a way that hadn’t seen before. Normally, nothing of consequence happens. This time, a power surge occurs and when they get everything back operational, the Earth is missing. What happened? Where did it go? Where did they go? We’re left with a lot of questions, and over the course of the rest of the movie the crew, along with us, get to try to figure them out—as well as a whole host of new questions that are unveiled over its duration. Meanwhile, the ship starts to have weird things happen to it and its crew.

“Logic doesn’t apply to any of this,” one character says (in Mandarin) and that’s a pretty good description of the entirety of The Cloverfield Paradox. It has a lot of weird things that don’t make a lot of sense, especially at first. Much of it seems to be done just for the visuals, which are often creative and shocking—even if many others are borrowing from Every Space Movie Ever. And then the pieces start coming together, and after a while you kind of, maybe, figure out what’s going on.

I had fun with The Cloverfield Paradox, and if you like thrillers on a space station, you probably will, too.

The film is tense, though, working with both the mysteries provided by the plot as well as the tensions among the crew. The characters aren’t terribly deep, although we do get a certain sense of how all of them think and feel as the movie plays out. As the twists, turns, and reveals mount, you start to get the sense that none of it is ultimately going to matter, and that we’re just here to unlock another mystery box that wasn’t quite worth the time it took to open it.

Is it worth it? Well, kind of. We get some more information as to how all of the Cloverfield movies are connected, and the suspense, visuals, weirdness, and cast make it worthwhile as a solo movie. Is it able to live up to the top space ship movies ever? No, it can’t. It’s not better than Alien or Sunshine. And if you don’t like the mystery box as a device—whether it works or not—you’ll dislike that element, too. One of the things I like about this franchise is that it’s allowing for good, intriguing movies to be made and only, really, tangentially tying them together under the Cloverfield brand. They work as standalone movies and they have Easter egg/Subplot aspects that connect them for the hardcore fans. And they might not have been made at all without that branding. Even if it doesn’t always add up, it’s a small price to pay to get these films.

One of The Cloverfield Paradox‘s strengths comes from its cast, which consists of a lot of great actors. Its lead—if only because she has a tangible connection to Earth that we get to see—is Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). On the ship we’ve also got Schmidt (Daniel Brühl), Tam (Ziyi Zhang), Kiel (David Oyelowo), Volkov (Aksel Hennie), Monk (John Ortiz), and Mundy (Chris O’Dowd). All of them are good, even if the characters they’re playing are slightly lacking.

The Cloverfield Paradox is a solid space movie with a strong cast, an interesting premise, an engaging plot, a lot of weirdness weirdness, and some strong visuals. It brings up a bunch of questions, answers most of them, and generates both more intrigue and possibilities for the future of the franchise. Does it all make perfect sense? Probably not. It’s all just a loose set of connections that allow these movies to be made in the first place and “technically” be related anyway. I had fun with The Cloverfield Paradox, and if you like thrillers on a space station, you probably will, too.

Conclusion: The Cloverfield Paradox is an engaging space thriller.

Recommendation: If you don’t mind the mystery box aspect and you like space movies or thrillers, The Cloverfield Paradox is worth checking out.

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