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[Review] – ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’


Release Date: Release Date: 4 February [USA]
Director: Julius Onah
Writer: Oren Uziel [Screenplay]
Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw - David Oyelowo - Daniel Brühl



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Posted February 18, 2018 by

2008’s Cloverfield has become a cult classic in the years since its release with fan-theories abounding about the story. Fans were desperate for a sequel that would expand on the circumstances of the film, especially the shock ending. In 2016, a sequel was announced, barely a couple of months prior to the film’s release. Though the story of 10 Cloverfield Lane was gripping, its connection to the Cloverfield­-universe seemed tenuous, at best, until the very last scene.

At the 2018 Superbowl, the trailer for a third Cloverfield film, The Cloverfield Paradox, was released, followed by the film immediately after on Netflix. The surprising marketing ploy did enough to entice viewers to watch the film but reviews have been overwhelmingly negative.

The Cloverfield Paradox takes place an unspecified time after the first two films. A team of scientists aboard the Cloverfield Station experiment on the Shepard particle accelerator in an effort to solve Earth’s energy crisis. After several failed firings, the particle accelerator finally works but a malfunction damages the station. When the incapacitated crew recover they realise that something is terribly wrong with the universe – nothing is where it is supposed to be.

The first thing viewers will notice about the film is its diversity. We have rarely ever seen a horror-science-fiction film with a woman of colour playing the protagonist. In this film, Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Hamilton, a lead scientist on the Cloverfield Station. The station commander, Kiel, is played by fellow British actor David Oyelowo. The rest of the cast include German Daniel Brühl, American John Ortiz, Irishman Chris O’Dowd, Norwegian Aksel Hennie and Chinese Ziyi Zhang. The cast is rounded up by Australian Elizabeth Debicki.

Not only is the cast diverse but the characters speak different languages to each other, but mainly English and Chinese, which really adds to the diversity of the world.

Mbatha-Raw is the emotional core of this film and imbues her scenes with a great deal of pathos. Chris O’Dowd is his usual humorous self; his levity adds depth to an otherwise stilted film. Neither Oyelowo nor Ortiz are given enough to do, and the film does suffer for it. It almost seems like they were added to make up the numbers. Hennie is good in his scenes but it felt too much like he was playing an angrier version of his character in The Martian. I also wish Zhang had more of a role in the film; she is sadly short-changed here. Brühl is brilliant throughout and steals every scene he is in. His chemistry with Zhang is understated and gives their characters more dimension than the script warrants.

The standout though is Debicki. I am continuously amazed by her talents. Debicki always seems to know more about her character and situation than the viewer can see. She brings a depth and layers that appears effortless but surely isn’t. Her scenes are excellent to watch and the film could have done with giving her a larger role.

The production of this film is gorgeous and there are times when one can forget that this film has been directed by relative newcomer Julius Onah and not Ridley Scott. Scott’s Alien films are clearly an influence – there is a scene part way through the film where the setup is almost exactly the same as the chest-burster scene from Alien. Generally, scenes flow well into each other and there is a foreboding, tense atmosphere permeating every moment. The film doesn’t rely too much on cliché horror movie moments and jump scares, and manages to subvert a few scenes with humour. Onah clearly has a bright future ahead of him, if he has better stories to work with.

Despite the high production values and excellent visual effects, the screenplay is shockingly poor. The alternative universe plot is interesting enough but fails to do anything new or different. Another Earth handled it far more skilfully. The story also falls into the scientists-make-silly-decisions trope that has been permeating science-fiction films off late – at times, the influence of Scott’s newer Alien films does Paradox a great disservice.

Is The Cloverfield Paradox as bad as people are saying it is? It is often an aggravating watch but it is surprisingly fun, as well. The characters are engaging, if somewhat two-dimensional, but there are sparks that keep one hooked. A stronger, better planned story would have done the cast justice but unfortunately, this is all we have. The diversity of the cast is its strongest suit and will hopefully pioneer a new method of casting for genre films.

JJ Abrams has plans to expand further on the Cloverfield universe but one has to wonder why and where it plans to go. Following three films full of hints, we are still no closer to learning about the creatures in Cloverfield. Hopefully the next film will be better made and give fans some answers.


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Louis Skye
Freelance Contributor

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