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‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ (review)

Produced by J.J. Abrams, Lindsey Weber
Screenplay by Oren Uziel
Story by Oren Uziel, Doug Jung
Directed by Julius Onah
Starring Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki,
Aksel Hennie, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zhang Ziyi,
Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz, David Oyelowo

 

It was the collective gasp heard around the world.

During Sunday’s Super Bowl, a confusing and sudden commercial emerged to reveal the new Cloverfield movie was arriving not in April, not in theaters but that night immediately after the Super Bowl.

Formerly known as The God Particle then Cloverfield 3, The Cloverfield Paradox was going to be the prequel to end all prequels.

Would it finally explain where the aliens came from?

Would it answer why the satellite fell into the ocean?

And what was up with those mini monsters?

Finally a prequel we waited ten years to see was clearly going to be thorough and worthy of our time. Let the excitement begin.

Welcome to Earth, where a surging energy crisis is about to erupt into a war and just like every other sci-fi movie, a team of highly trained scientists must travel to space to save the world. This time around, it’s to a space station to use a particle accelerator in hopes of creating an unlimited source of energy.

Enter Ava (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who has suffered the great tragedy of the death of her two children. Stricken with grief, she focuses all her energy into saving the mankind alongside her talented team which includes award-winning actors like David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl and Zhang Ziyi (somehow Chris O’Dowd made the cast list). Unfortunately, like every space horror movie, what begins as a promising opportunity to save the world quickly turns into a nightmare of predictability trapped in space.

So what went so terribly wrong (aside from being unoriginal?) Everything and it was all at once. A major movie (with a built-in audience) set to release by Paramount was instead sold to Netflix, should have been the first warning sign but when theta trailer dropped, people were in their feelings and they were hopeful. However, feelings are not facts and the facts are: this movie was an embarrassment of hodgepodge proportions.

Clearly a first draft of a community college screenplay without proper guidance, a sober professor or even a half-assed mentor, Paradox doesn’t know what it wants to achieve, what its singular message is and therefore fails at just trying to keep its audience from dying of boredom.

The problems with Paradox starts even before the movie was released. Just the title alone is the definition of a marketing lie, a last-ditch desperate act to pull in ratings for a movie that would otherwise find its way into a clearance bin at the local Piggly Wiggly. The strategy is simply: find a random sci-fi movie, throw the name “Cloverfield” in the title and stream it after a football game that draws over 100 million viewers.

Unlike 10 Cloverfield Lane which story unfolded naturally building on tension and showcasing its cast acting skills, it also managed to fit comfortably into the Cloverfield universe; leaving its audience begging for more yet still creating a satisfying movie (thank you, John Goodman). The previous two Cloverfield movies were based in realism, no matter how silly it became (no, Manhattan is not that large), it actors were fully committed to their role and were believe in their choices.

Paradox, however, does not feel like a prequel to Cloverfield or even a sequel. Heck, it isn’t even proper standalone. Instead its mixture of random sci-fi movies/tv shows ranging from Black Mirror to LIFE to Interstellar to Sunshine to The Twlight Zone to Event Horizon. This is not an exaggeration, it’s literally all these movies thrown together to create one very disjointed movie.

As a result Paradox is riddled with massive technical editing mistakes that will have the audience thinking they missed entire scenes and dialogue, plot holes never get filled and nonsensical dialogue makes it even more laughable. However, the most disappointing aspect is that none of the actors are allowed to grasp an understanding of their character leaving one to believe they toss this cast together faster than they did this script.

Director Julius Onah was simply the worse for this project. Instead being a guiding force that pulls the best out of his talented actors (…and Chris O’Dowd), he leaves them on-screen with nothing to do or emotions to pull from to make for a watchable movie.

Filled with laziness, Onah’s actors just stand their reciting rambling scientific lines at one another, leaving the audience completely out of the loop for a good duration of the movie. Thank the acting Gods for Mbatha-Raw’s pure instinct to create an emotional connection to her character (why have you forsaken us, Oyelowo?) and try to make this movie as 3-dimensional as possible. Yet, she is only one person actively fighting a losing battle and is no match for a movie that doesn’t even create internal conflict with the crew.

However, all is not lost and if you have the patience to tolerate the sudden wave of exhaustion this movie produces, it is visually passable. The designs are fresh and the special effects are rather enjoyable (even when they don’t make sense). There are moments that are truly shocking, fun and rather haunting but these are forgettable especially since there aren’t any given reason for their occurrence and feel like added bit just to prevent the audience from drifting into the void of numbness.

What makes this movie even more disrespectful is that it had so many times to redeem itself. The concept of multiple dimensions is amazing, the butterfly effect would have been wonderful to explore instead of glossed over and it’s one second surprise appearance was jaw-dropping. It has the ability to be better than it predecessors but no one cared enough to make that happen. JJ Abrams’ is losing his touch a producer. He’s gone from lens flares to ruining Star Wars, so maybe this is just his M.O. for now, which is sad because he used to produce such passable work (long live, Alias).

It’s too early to predict this but Paradox just might be biggest movie disappointment of 2018, but don’t fret there’s another Cloverfield movie coming this year (taking place during WWII) so anything is possible. As for now, Paradox is the surprise movie of the year that would have been better served fueling a fireplace.

 

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