Director: Julius Onah
Screenplay: Oren Uziel
Starring: Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Aksel Hennie, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O'Dowd, John Ortiz, David Oyelowo, Zhang Ziyi
Runtime: 102 Minutes
There have been rumbles on the internet for the last few months regarding the status of the latest instalment of the Cloverfield series and its exact release date with Paramount, with the main avenue looking to be pursued was by moving the long untitled picture for a Netflix release – and during this year’s Super Bowl this was confirmed by the surprise announcement of not only the film’s title in the trailer reveal, but that the film would be released almost immediately onto the streaming service following the end of the football game.
This is a rather unprecedented move for an established Hollywood brand and especially in the field of marketing campaigns with the ever-shifting dynamics of distribution and home viewing services. But it does fit nicely into the series’ established histories with their own elusive, surprisingly enticing marketing campaigns producing an aura of speculation and interest without giving away much in the way of plot.
But once the film press and frenzied internet hullabaloo quickly died down and everyone raced to their nearest screen to be able to watch the film, it suddenly became very apparent why Netflix had chosen to dump the release onto their service without fanfare. The Cloverfield Paradox is an ungodly mess that only confirms the fears surrounding its production and delayed release.
Much like 2016’s surprisingly excellent 10 Cloverfield Lane, this third instalment began its life as God Particle, a science-fiction film taking place on a space station in Earth's orbit and a resulting incident that causes the crew to find the Earth has gone missing. While the core premise remains intact, the details surrounding it have been extensively rewritten and reshot to incorporate the Cloverfield brand title into the universe in post-production.
Unfortunately, whereas the altering fingerprints of producer J. J. Abrams and his team were visible but rarely distracting from their previous effort at transforming the previous film, the efforts of the team to veer this rogue anthology series into something approaching a single continuity only confuse and distract from one of the most boring science-fiction thrillers of the last few years.
Although last year’s Alien Knockoff Life managed to make the most out of some intense sequences and an originally conceived antagonist, there is no consistency to any of what is going on aboard the Cloverfield Station after their efforts to create a new energy source result in them crossing over into alternate dimensions. Characters become possessed, lose arms, are teleported across spacetime and a multitude of other strange occurrences with no evenness or adequate explanation beyond a random series of encounters to try and elicit thrills – and even then, only come off as unintentionally funny or profoundly stupid.
There isn’t a single character aboard the spacecraft who provokes anything in the way of real human emotion or reasoning beyond Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Ava Hamilton, who is still in grieving from the death of her children and plays into the film’s soul interesting theme. Mbatha-Raw incidentally is giving the only half-decent performance in the whole film, where even the likes of David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl and Elizabeth Debicki fail to make anything of their stock characters and interactions where its hard to remember a single character’s name beyond their position in the plot.
This is director Julius Onah’s first major feature release, and while it's certainly impressive looking at points, this doesn’t feel like his film anymore. The editing job done by the new overseers is a dismembered mess of inconsistent developments, clearly reinserted and rearranged coverage footage and audio recordings and uneven visual effects and scene geography.
What comes across worst of all is how much damage this might have caused to the Cloverfield brand as a prospective exercise. What initially seemed to be the beginning of a new cinematic anthology series of non-related storylines sharing a similar title and elements of construction and tone, Paradox cannibalises it’s previous two instalments into what appears to be a single form of continuity, but breaks its back trying to bend itself around the logical leaps and relative distances between them through dire expositional dumps, and hurried explanations in a B plot involving Ava's partner on Earth (made worse by an awful performance from Roger Davies).
Where the Cloverfield series goes from here is uncertain now, given that the studios behind it were more concerned with simply getting it over and done with than making anything more unique or workable of it, beyond trying to convince an audience to take a second lucky dip on a hard to sell feature that had evidently overreached in its budget and potential. The Cloverfield Paradox is a boring, frustrating waste of time and opportunity that only purists need seek out.