“The Cloverfield Paradox” (2018)
Running Time: 102 minutes
Written by: Oren Uziel and Doug Jung
Directed by: Julius Onah
Featuring: Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Aksel Hennie, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz, David Oyelowo, and Zhang Ziyi
Mundy: “That’s my fucking arm!”
In this modern age can a movie still be surprising, when there is twenty four hour coverage of behind the scenes stories as well as castings, announcements with every film production company trying to get the edge over another. I would have thought not, even when a fake movie is marketed like the possible “Crocodile Dundee” sequel that turned out to be a marketing campaign for Tourism Australia – I don’t think I have been more let down in some time when that was revealed. On the flipside of that there is the new ‘Cloverfield’ movie, “The Cloverfield Paradox” (2018), that has been teased for over a year, a release date announced of February then changed to April – with the big news as well as huge surprise that it would be hitting Netflix today (New Zealand time 5th February) – a shocking twist you might expect from a M. Night Shyamalan, not a Cloverfield film. This may be Netflix’s biggest gamble yet in terms of a high profile genre project, directly fighting its closest direct competitor, Amazon studios, by being able to surpise an audience, while being able to measure if a possible audience will sign up just to view this highly anticipated franchise genre entry.
Of course there would be no franchise without super producer J.J. Abrams (he who is a hugely successful writer/director in his own right) who has seemingly handpicked the writers and director for this new film – all three being relatively untested in genre films, but who have an atheistic that is closer to Abrams own than at first glance. What is refreshing to see is that Abrams has tried to keep things fresh much like the first two films where relative unknowns steered the ship to create two of the more memorable as well as original hybrid horror/Sci-Fi movies around. Not only that but whilst the first movie was a found footage movie Abrams had the courage to deviate from that genre into more of a narrative feel that reflected the cold war Sci-Fi’s of the 1950s and 1960s. So now comes what must be the latest installment after title changes, date changes, as well as plot details that have constantly been revised in very public ways – the questions is of course does “The Cloverfield Paradox” live up to the hype, is it any good and will audiences be happy with this effort?
In the near future, Earth is suffering from a global energy crisis. The collective space agencies of the world launch the Cloverfield station to perfect the Shepard particle accelerator, which if successful, would providing an unlimited supply of energy for Earth, but would be far too dangerous to test on Earth, some pundits arguing this would create the “Cloverfield Paradox” and open up portals to other dimensions to let monsters onto Earth. One of the crew includes Hamilton, who frets about leaving her husband Michael for potentially many years; the two have struggled with the death of their children years prior which has left their relationship cold. They are unable to get the accelerator working for about two years, but eventually, they are successful. However, the system overloads, causing a massive power surge on the station. When they restore basic functions, they find that Earth is nowhere to be found, and the station’s gyroscope, necessary for navigation, has gone missing.
As each installment has progressed the actors that have been recruited have bigger name recognition to tie audiences into the characters that they portray. So with “The Cloverfield Paradox” it comes as no surprise that the large ensemble cast is not only international in flavor but has possibly the biggest names yet. There is no doubt that both David Oyelowo and Daniel Brühl are the anchors of this film who as you would expect are excellent in their roles as Commander and scientist respectively, they have been in enough films to know their characters as well as their roles in a genre piece like this – although it is safe to say that none of the cast involved have been in a movie quite like this. In saying that this is most definitely Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s film, she is the emotional lynchpin to this entire story, without her or her performance this film would be dead in the water. There is absolutely no doubt that with all the weird happenings within this film that Mbatha-Raw’s role is indispensible not only to the film but for the audience as well – her character is the one that we learn most about so is the one we care about, and it works extremely well – I can only assume this is Abrams influence as it comes across as very Spielbergian, who Abrams is a great fan of. The cast is rounded out with Chris O’Dowd as the comic relief and as usual he steals many scenes, there is also John Ortiz, Zhang Ziyi and Elizabeth Debicki who have their own motivations serving the plot extremely well, it is worth noting that all of the actors in this film could easily be leads of their own films – that is how strong this cast is. They all carry their loads well without once overplaying their own parts, it is a well oiled machine that operates effectively.
The film does make the wise decision of only having only two locations so as to maximize tension as well as the budget that is required to make this type of film not only believable in its environments, but to give the characters something to work with that is solid. Julius Onah, the director, makes excellent decisions about the way he has shot this as well as how he reveals the plot through narrative although parts of this movie do feel like “Life” (2017) from last year, but with a steadier hand as well as working within an overall pre-existing narrative. I found it to be an excellent second film and look forward to more form this talented director.
This film like the previous two entries in this franchise deals with isolation, the effect this has on people as well as how it is dealt with from a variety of perspectives. Many horror movies deal with isolated victims who are attempting to dodge certain death from an unknown entity or person – think about any horror film and many of them follow this trope. Mix in the technology angle that a Sci-Fi has at its heart and then you can add a variety of unknowns, which is what “The Cloverfield Paradox” plays off of. “The Cloverfield Paradox” also takes a trope that has been used in Sci-Fi films for years, the alternate universe and multiverse theory to power the plot as well as making it the reason for many of the action as well as horror. At this stage I would say it is not amazingly original but combined with a plot device that gives a solid reason for many of the characters decisions it is a good one – it is also a good move to make this movie about something other than tension, monsters and the unknown as it provides stakes the audience understands and we do not have to wade through plot to get to some twist or a ‘to be continued’ device like 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016).
By itself “The Cloverfield Paradox” would be a very good Sci-Fi movie with a morality tale woven in to the narrative, but because it is part of the Cloverfield franchise it has some other heavy lifting to do which it does admirably. It goes along way to explain some of the events of the previous to movies although it does have the hard task of following those two excellent movies which it succeeds at considering it is making it up as it goes along – with an ending that could be considered routine as far as the genre goes. However this is a very good film from a novice writer and director with a killer cast that begs to be watched, possibly more than once, do yourself a favor.
“The Cloverfield Paradox” (2018) is streaming on Netflix now.