I have to admit, I do miss the old days of being a film fan. When I would go to the theater and see a trailer for a film I had no idea was even being made, and here it is all done and coming this Summer to a theater near you. Now most of the trailers I see range from my phone, my tablet, my computer screen, to very rarely my TV screen. But I was super excited by the Super Bowl ad that revealed that Netflix had a new film with “Cloverfield” in the title. And even more surprised to see it dropped that night of the release of said trailer.
Now when it comes to the modern ways of consuming filmed media, be it movie or series, I am already on the side of overwhelmed. There is just so much out there, how are we expected to consume it all and live what we would call a regular life? Again, all I had to see was the name “Cloverfield” and it conjures up images of the scarred-up Statue of Liberty, a crazy John Goodman, and the two epically awesome films that came from this non-connected, but sorta connected universe. And now the instant access made it all the more appealing. Then I saw “The Cloverfield Paradox” which spun me into my own personal conundrum: Is this blend of old-time feeling and new media consumption really working? Or do I just want it to so much that it skews my judgement?
The film opens in a traffic jam where we are kinda told the world is not in such a great place and Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is chosen work aboard a space station in an attempt to solve the world energy crisis, by igniting a giant laser in space for some reason. The rest of her crew consist of people from other countries who are also skilled in space science: David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, John Ortiz, Chris O’Dowd, Aksel Hennie, and Ziyi Zhang. After trying for 2 years to get the world saving energy beam to work in order to take the technology back to the earth, they finally are successful, though with some unexpected consequences. The whole thing pretty much turns into a lame version of “Event Horizon” which itself is not a very good set-in-space film anyway. Meanwhile on Earth, there is also bad things happening with Hamilton’s husband Michael (Roger Davies), but due to the poor nature of the editing, we are not sure what that is. But if you’ve seen previous Cloverfield movies, you can guess, I just expected more.
Director Julius Onah does his best with the great production design, decent character actors, and familiar setting to make a thrilling film, but the “feels-like-the-first-draft” nature of the script by Oren Uziel and Doug Jung and the awkward score of Bear McCreary whether the characters are running panicked down a corridor or sitting and talking, the music sounds like the opening theme of “The Walking Dead”. Which is a shame, because I loved McCreary’s score for the previous “10 Cloverfield Lane” which is a film “Paradox” should have stole a bit from if it wanted to make things a bit more interesting. Such as, kind of a spoiler, but not really, the final shot of the film did make me say out loud, I wonder what more time in that part of the movie would be like. Just like 20 more minutes there to see where it goes, not that it could have saved the last hour-forty, but that would have been something.
This movie has an advertised tag line of “The Future Unleashed Every Thing” and that’s kind of the problem. “The Cloverfield Paradox” lacks focus, it decides to throw all the troupes from all the space thrillers and loses any attachment to the characters who themselves are based on similar stereotypes. Even the half interesting parts make little sense unless you are picking up the pieces from the cutting room floor. By the end you do realize partly why this was not given a theatrical release, and so far Netflix has not shown us why we should stop looking to the theater for quality filmmaking, but apparently they still got like 76 chances to get it right. The only problem is I don’t know if I have that kind of time to devote to them, but on the other hand I am still generally curious to see what is to come. That is the true paradox.