13 February 2018

Review: The Cloverfield Paradox

(Dir: Julius Onah, 2018)

Cast your mind back ten years. That was when it emerged out of nowhere and took us by surprise. There had been that nameless, mysterious teaser trailer which decapitated the Statue of Liberty and referenced JJ Abrams. There was little to no information online beyond the cryptic, and eventually a name that told you absolutely nothing. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the multimedia screening in the sorely missed Empire Leicester Square screen 1 (the best in central London and perfect screen for this film). No-one there really knew what to expect. Eighty-five minutes later, after emerging from the sensory assault on-screen, the adrenaline was coursing through the body and the mind was buzzing with excitement. The thrill felt whilst first watching Cloverfield a decade ago is still firmly embedded in my memory  how few of the eight hundred plus films I've since seen at the cinema can I actually say that about?

Since then it has remained something of an enigma. Credit is due for not just rushing into creating more of the same, but it seems to have gone too far the other direction with a tenuous approach to keeping the name alive. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a decent little thriller but you'd never know it was supposed to be any relation to the first film without that name, which if anything proves more of a hindrance. And it's the same issue with The Cloverfield Paradox there amounts to a few minutes which directly thrust it into this world, but beyond that this could be any independent story in which we need to save our planet. It doesn't help that we've jumped an indeterminate amount of time forward to follow an international team of scientists two years into conducting dangerous energy experiments in space. What has actually happened in the numerous years between destruction arriving and what we're now seeing? There's an interesting bridging story to tell, and if the "second film" does actually answer some or most of this it was done in such a subtle way that only the most ardent fans will have latched onto the details. 

There's potential for The Cloverfield Paradox to be a really interesting film, but tonally it's all over the place. At times it hints at wanting to be like Event Horizon yet it's flirtations with horror amount to nothing. The mystery and thriller elements feel half-baked, and there's not enough action or convincing drama to satisfy. Frustratingly there are some good ideas here such as the actual paradox concept, the introduction of Elizabeth Debicki's character and the lighter touches from Chris O'Dowd (the latter of which would sit better in a different film). Then there's the Earth-bound scenes which feel unnecessarily tacked on, existing solely as a way to tie it into the Cloverfield series – something the film was never originally conceived as being part of. And it shows. Thus we have an averagely entertaining film that would've been greatly improved by either going full bore into sequel territory, or by ditching the half-assed attempts to tie into an existing series and refining it's ideas under the original God Particle title. The only winner here is Paramount who wisely abandoned plans for a cinema release and instead sold the film to Netflix for an alleged $50m. Quite why Netflix paid that much for this film without obtaining rights to the Cloverfield name will remain the most intriguing mystery associated with The Cloverfield Paradox.

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