If the Cloverfield Paradox is anything to go by, someone needs to tell Netflix no once in a while. The newest addition to the Cloverfield franchise made its debut on the streaming site after Sunday’s Super Bowl, which is a marketing tactic that has hugely backfired on everyone involved. You see The Cloverfield Paradox isn’t very good. Comparatively, it’s the worst movies of this strange franchise, and may be one of the worst movies of 2018 so far. Coming after the relative success of 10 Cloverfield Lane (which is an excellent film with and without the nods to the first instalment), The Cloverfield Paradox proves that adding some Cloverfield flavour only works if the script was good in the first place.
Before we look at why the Cloverfield paradox failed we first have to define what a good Cloverfield movie should be. The two movies that preceded this one help define the franchise as something of an anthology with only some small details that connect them. As well as this, both movies play with the conventions of a specific genre. Clo9verfield was a huge monster movie filtered through the low budget horror sub-genre that is found footage. Instead of looking like the kind of cheap knock-offs that define found footage, Cloverfield director Matt Reeves’ choice to shoot proceedings with a hand-held camera brought both the audience and the characters closer to the terror and destruction of the movie’s monsters.
10 Cloverfield Lane chooses a completely different look and mood. Instead of an all-out monster movie like the first, !0 Cloverfield Lane is a locked room drama, with its science fiction aspects used to inform the very human horror at its core. Like The Cloverfield Paradox, 10 Cloverfield Lane is an original idea that was cobbled into a Cloverfield film after the fact. The reason it works so well is that the original idea, along with strong direction and amazing performances from John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, was already a winner. The Cloverfield Paradox’s main story isn’t anywhere near as strong as its predecessor.
Set in the near future, in which Earth is suffering through a disastrous energy crisis, a team of astronauts are working on using a particle accelerator to achieve a source of renewable energy. Unfortunately, after using the machine they are transported to an alternate dimension in which another version of the station crashed and the planet is at war with itself.
This sounds like a cool premise, right? Except The Cloverfield Paradox does absolutely nothing with it. It wastes a cast full of talented actors: including the likes of Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, Chris O’Dowd as Mundy, Zhang Ziyi as Tam, and Elizabeth Debicki, by forgetting to give them actual characters to play. There are echoes of a great movie, especially the scenes that involve body horror, but it’s all so dull that you will struggle to give a crap when it starts hitting the fan.
What’s even worse is the tacked-on scenes that are supposed to connect it to the first movie. Roger Davis, who plays Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s husband: who is still on Earth, is stranded with about four scenes, most of which are in his car (because it’s cheap to film), as he makes his way through a city besieged by big monsters. Except you never see the monsters (not until a laughable out of place final shot) so we never get the feel that there is any real danger.
In retrospect it’s a lot easier to understand why Netflix choose to go down the surprise release route. It means that no critics could see it first and warn viewers from potentially wasting their time, and the Cloverfield brand guarantees high viewing figures. He Cloverfield Paradox succeeds as a marketing campaign but utterly fails as a movie.