Cloverfield Paradox, The

Rating:

Lost in Space

Main Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo

Director: Julius Onah

I can’t decide whether or not I’m a fan of the Cloverfield franchise. The first one did nothing for me with its hyperactive handheld camera work, but I really dug John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead with their claustrophobic cat and mouse in the second one. The entirely different feel (and genre) from one to the next made it hard to even see them in the same universe. The Cloverfield Paradox, which Netflix dropped right after the Super Bowl, is both the third in the series and the third different genre. Is it clever? Is it ridiculous? Is it both?

The Cloverfield Paradox begins in London, with astronaut Ava Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and her husband Michael (Roger Davies) discussing whether Ava should join the crew of a mission to solve an energy crisis that is causing massive political turmoil all over the world. Of course she decides to go, and becomes the main player in a space horror movie. The team, including Commander Kiel (David Oyelowo) and an international group of specialists, is in orbit trying to use a particle accelerator to create a stable source of energy. They are a dysfunctional crew (of course) with some trust issues, but they’re on their way to getting the job done when something goes wrong and sh*t gets real.

Producer J.J. Abrams didn’t decide to make this into a Cloverfield movie until after the film was already in production. Apparently the same was true with 10 Cloverfield Lane. He had the space horror script and added on elements that would link it to the first two movies. I’m not sure it worked.

First let’s look at The Cloverfield Paradox as a stand-alone movie. It’s mediocre. Some of the special effects are cool and Mbatha-Raw is a likeable enough protagonist, but it’s basically the same as most every “bad things happening on a space ship” movie we’ve seen before.  There are no well-defined villains, the problems are poorly explained, and in general the script bit off more than it could adequately chew.

There are some good performances – the aforementioned Mbatha-Raw is solid if unspectacular. Chris O’Dowd does a nice job providing some much needed comic relief, and I liked the small segments of the movie that took place on Earth during the mission, with Roger Davies as Michael leading the way.

Now, as a part of the Cloverfield universe, it’s…interesting. It does link pretty well into the (vague) framework set out in the first two movies and explains a few things, so that’s good. It’s also so disconnected from the tone and genre of either of the others that it’s just another weird installment in a weird franchise. I’ve just been unable to invest enough in the overarching story that connects them all to be interested in genre hopping anymore to find out what happens. Honestly, I just don’t care. I’ll watch another one only if it looks like I would enjoy it as a stand-alone, but I don’t have enough interest to sit through a bad movie just to find out a few little tidbits about the Cloverfield universe.

I’m giving The Cloverfield Paradox 2 stars for a couple good performances and some neat special effects, but it’s not worth sitting through for the Cloverfield bits. Just Google them and save yourself some time. Or watch 10 Cloverfield Lane – it’s the best of the three.

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