*SPOILER ALERT* (this post contains mild-ish spoilers about The Cloverfield Paradox and the other two movies in the Cloverfield Franchise).
Over the weekend, rumors circulated that the mysterious third film in the loosely connected Cloverfield franchise would be making its way to Netflix soon after the Super Bowl. A bit into the first half, we got the trailer for The Cloverfield Paradox (previous working title: God Particle) with a promise of a release "very soon." Then came one of the best Super Bowls in memory. Then me switching over to Netflix as Darrell Green very awkwardly walked the Lombardi Trophy through the Philadelphia Eagles depth chart. Then, finally, the movie. Now, about that:
Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Miss Sloane, the upcoming A Wrinkle in Time), David Oyelowo (Selma) and Daniel Brühl (Inglorious Basterds, commercials for The Alienist) lead a strong, diverse lineup of almost-famouses enlisted to defy the laws of physics using the most advanced spacecraft ever built. Mbatha-Raw in particular draws a lot out of an underdeveloped backstory.
The Plot In Theory
There's a solid space survival movie and some fascinating scientific concepts tucked in here, including using a Higgs boson-smashing process to create an unlimited energy source for a world in the midst of a full-on energy crisis—one that threatens to trigger a new World War. Think a combination of Alien without the aliens, and a less intellectual Interstellar. Though, admittedly, I'm a sucker for J.J. Abrams-related projects' constant use of time/dimensional travel.
The Marketing Campaign
No one has used streaming culture's demand for instant gratification better than Netflix did here.
The Plot In Practice
The worst part about The Cloverfield Paradox is everything related to Cloverfield. The first two films in the franchise worked because they were very human. You barely get a glimpse of the monster in the Cloverfield. You're down at ground level, like everyone else, freaking out. And it works. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a masterwork of tension and claustrophobia, and the ultimate reveal of the monster(s) makes for a great bonus payoff. In Paradox, you end up wondering why they bothered trying to thread the beast in at all. That said, maybe a fourth installment will bring vindication.
Rumor has it this production was plagued by delays and re-shoots, and it shows. Julius Onah is a talented director who's a little out of his element here. Despite the appealing cast, the acting itself—save for Mbatha-Raw's, is wooden, and there are spontaneous injections of humor that feel like they were studio-ordered. It's disorienting. Chris O'Dowd's Mundy, for example, seems to be existing in an entirely different movie than everyone else.
Were they purposely trying to poke fun at other space apocalypse films with the international crew that doesn't fully trust one another? With the Russian guy who doesn't really get along with anyone else? With the mysterious, short-slicked-haired blonde with suspicious motives? It's hard to tell if this was sincere or not.
As mentioned above, one of the unique parts about 10 Cloverfield Lane was how it was an entirely different movie from Cloverfield, while still feeling like it was taking place during the events of the first film (iPhone notwithstanding). The Cloverfield Paradox makes it clear that all three films are happening in different times and in different situations. It's the letdown that makes you wish they'd just excised the monster parts out of this one altogether and focused on the space mission. The first two movies ended on grace notes, however tragic. The moral of this one seems to be that we're fucked no matter what. Sign of the times, maybe.