“Cloverfield: Paradox”, released on Feb. 4 on Netflix, is the third film in the “Cloverfield” franchise. It was directed by Julius Onah, Produced by J.J. Abrams, and stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, and Chris O’Dowd. By now you probably know about the insane marketing campaign for this movie- announcing the movie, releasing the first trailer, all during the first half of the Super Bowl, and mere hours before the film premiered on Netflix. As a fan of the Cloverfield franchise myself, as soon as I saw that Bad Robot logo I immediately told everyone around me to shut up and glued myself to the screen. Seeing them claim I was going to finally get the answers to what happened in the first movie (the first sequel, “10 Cloverfield Lane” has very little in relation to the first one, containing only passing references to themes in the series), I was excited.
Did the movie live up to the literal hours of hype that was built up between the first commercial and release? Well, yes and no. In series like Cloverfield’s, there are gonna be duds. “The Godfather Part III”, “Return of the Jedi”, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” all come to mind. Are they awful movies? Not really, there are worse films out there. But they don’t exactly hold up to the standards set by their predecessors, and as a result, can be seen as a bad movie in comparison.This is one of those movies.
The story is about the space station Cloverfield and it’s crew, who are in the midst of an energy crisis that is putting the world at the brink of war. Their goal is to use a particle accelerator, known as the Shepard, to provide infinite energy for all of Earth. Eventually, after tensions build and many failed tests, one of the tests seems to do more than provide the world with infinite energy, and they hear something in the walls… First, let’s discuss the good in this movie. The acting is some of the best the series has seen. Although 10 Cloverfield Lane has everyone beat with John Goodman’s performance, David Oyelowo, Chris O’Dowd and Zhang Ziyi seem to be putting in excellent work. Ziyi in particular, who puts on an exclusively Mandarin-language performance the whole film. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is also good in the (ostensibly) main character role as Ava Hamilton.
Another positive is the cinematography. Every scene in this movie looks beautifully lit and shot, despite the mediocre directing and slightly unimpressive space station aesthetic. However there are problems with the movie, and they are noticeable. The first issue is the dialogue. A good movie can express many story elements using very little exposition. The first two movies do it excellently, with many of the major plot points not even being explained or discussed in-film, leaving interpretation and plot points a little vague as to drive up the fear of the unknown that this series is usually so good at portraying.
Meanwhile, “Paradox” has the character Volkov, a Russian engineer on the station who seems to speak entirely in expository dialogue. It is meant to seem “conversational”, but it genuinely feels like he read that morning’s newspaper and read it verbatim while using a pretty corny Russian accent. But when you have scenes like that, you also can get scenes like the one where they can’t find Earth anywhere around them, and Kiel (Oyelowo) is sitting silently in his quarters as he is contemplating what to do while the crew argues. No dialogue is spoken by Oyelowo, and you can really feel his emotion. This movie is full of conflicting moments of quality like that, where one scene feels like you’re watching a movie they usually save for an episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, then in the other, it feels like you’re watching a scene from “Gravity” or “Aliens”.
This movie was made with two very different groups of people in the production room, and it feels like it. The good scenes of this film initially were enough to keep me entertained on my first watch through, but after giving it another gander (It’s a Netflix film, so you can do that) it really does get slow. Although the quality moments have benefits and are good in their own right (usually thanks to the cinematography and acting), this film ultimately is brought down by an obvious 85th-ish draft script, a director who probably wasn’t entirely ready to direct a major motion picture like this, and a slow pace that turns what could have been a good 60 minute Black Mirror episode into a 105-minute, uneven TV movie that probably shouldn’t have been hyped to the extent that it was.
All three hours of it.