For the record, I had to take a few deep breaths before I sat down to write about The Cloverfield Paradox. You know, to calm myself down a wee bit. And I had to watch it twice. But I’m ready.
IT’S A NEW CLOVERFIELD MOVIE!
OK, that’s out of my system now.
Please understand that I love this franchise. From that riling, creepy, nameless teaser in the summer of 2007 to the viral videos, to the surprise announcements to yet even more surprise announcements, it’s like J.J. Abrams found that raw nerve inside my soul that hungers for fan theories and cinematic connections, and clamped down on said nerve with the plastic jaws of a monster. The first foray into Clovy’s world back in 2008 remains one of my favorite movies of all time (yeah, I said it). 10 Cloverfield Lane didn’t exactly quench my thirst for continuing the mythos, but it’s still an excellent thriller, provocative in its execution and fearless in its payoff. However, if you’re like me, you feel like you’ve been reading about the third Cloverfield chapter for a decade. Originally meant to be a solo film with its own intriguing story, God Particle followed the same route as its predecessor: Abrams took an existing project and reformatted it to follow the franchise. It worked wonders for 10 Cloverfield Lane so why not a third time around?
The Cloverfield Paradox follows a team of scientists and engineers from countries all over the world that inhabit a space station with a tool onboard that is the world’s last hope: The Shepard Accelerator, which can provide the planet unlimited energy — and it needs it. Our resources are running on fumes, and every country is preparing for all-out war. After two years worth of failed attempts, the crew is on edge and their chances to get the accelerator working are slimming down. After their recent configuration, they finally get it working, or so it seems. The ship sustained massive damages, and then come across a terrifying realization: Earth is gone. It’s not on their channels, their scanners, not even when they look out the window. Instead they meet up with corpses, objects inside said corpses, people buried alive inside the walls of the ship, and that’s just the start. To put simply, they messed up space-time, and they’re about to feel the consequences.
Do you know how difficult that was, trying to summarize that without giving away little clues that could ruin your Cloverfield experience? I’m not about spoilers — or in this case, easter eggs — and with that I will say this in short: if you’re a fan of the franchise, seeing The Cloverfield Paradox is a must. If you’re not, then you’re not going to gain anything from this film.
It’s been a few days since the Super Bowl release (and I wholeheartedly admit I screamed my ass off when I saw that first TV spot during the game) and since then, details have leaked about the Netflix acquisition; Paramount sold it to them for a lot of money because they couldn’t get the nerve to release theatrically, and that in turn because there were “problems” with it. Abrams couldn’t step in to oversee the tweaks because he’s been busy with Star Wars, and Paramount kept delaying the film without a shred of marketing. Look, I get it. After seeing the film, I can completely understand why they felt this way. The Cloverfield Paradox is a mess of sorts, and this is the latest case of the filmmakers feeling something along those lines because this thing moves at a breakneck pace. It doesn’t allow us to dwell on some of the more head-scratching choices in the story, whether it be full of cliches we’ve seen all before, or taking a chance that’s met with a “meh” reception (the coolest of those belongs to Chris O’Dowd and his arm, and that should’ve been played up a lot more). The script is The Cloverfield Paradox’s biggest thorn, and while I can confidently say it’s the only thorn,it’s still a big one. Before, we had screenwriters Drew Goddard, Damien Chazelle, Stuecken & Campbell, and for the fourth film we’re going to have Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith! I’m sure Oren Uziel is talented (I look forward to seeing his earlier work Shimmer Lake, another Netflix film) but he missed the mark with creating a sci-fi thriller that could’ve turned us on our heads. Instead, this will have the hardest fans of the genre roll their eyes and choreograph collective sighs.
But maybe I’m just a madman, because with films like this, if the story sucks but everything else shines, I can still have a blast. The Cloverfield Paradox is noteworthy for two reasons. The first is the cast. Critics and viewers will say (and have said) they’re wasted here, and sure with a poor script, any good actor can be wasted. But to me, and how I’ve always viewed situations like this, an actor doesn’t let said poor script stop them from being engaged, and bringing their A-game to the situation. This cast is certainly game. O’Dowd, David Oyelowo, Daniel Bruhl, John Ortiz, Aksel Hennie, freaking Ziyi Zhang? They’re all stellar here, and their energy is felt under director Julius Onah. I even got introduced to Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Elizabeth Debicki, two actors I was unaware of beforehand and now I just want to see everything with them.
The second reason: it’s part of the Cloverfield canon! I still feel God Particle could’ve been a rousing time, but if there’s one thing the film did not fail hard on, it’s expanding the Cloverfield mythos. I was a fan before but now I’m a mouth-watering fan of this franchise because of the exciting way The Cloverfield Paradox explained the origin…or is it even the origin? That’s the crazy thing about it! As I said before, if you’re a fan of the first two, you have to see this one just to see where the filmmakers can go from this point forward. I still feeling discussing it more would give away things that need to be a surprise, but it opens up so many possibilities. What’s not a secret anymore is that the next installment takes place during WWII a day before D-Day, and it’s already done filming? *insert mind blown gif here*
The problems of The Cloverfield Paradox are big, and they’re evident, but if you can look past the poor script, you’ll be treated to some damn great acting by my new current ensemble cast. And if you’re a fan of the Cloverfield franchise, oh boy oh boy oh boy. This is a must-see. Now you’ll if excuse me, I’m going to wipe up the drool from the thought of Overlord (Cloverfield 4) because there’s a chance it might actually be released later this year.