Cloverfield has developed into one of the most unique franchises we’ve ever seen. Starting out with an intended standalone film Cloverfield, then taking a script for another standalone film, 10 Cloverfield Lane, and adjusting the ending so it fits in the universe. Strangely enough, The Cloverfield Paradox is the first film in the franchise that was originally intended to be part of the franchise. What’s even more strange, though, is how these films are marketed. I won’t get into the untraditional marketing campaigns of the first two films. But with this third one, we hadn’t gotten a poster, a trailer, or even an accurate title until last night when Netflix debuted a trailer during the Super Bowl and announced the film would be streaming after the game. Its marketing is unconventional, the whole franchise is unconventional, and for the franchise, The Cloverfield Paradox is surprisingly terrible.
Cloverfield has told us two stories so far – one in New York City and one within the confines of a rural home-turned-bunker. With this third story, we head to space. The Cloverfield Paradox tells the story of the crew of the Cloverfield – an international space station orbiting Earth. The crew’s task is to experiment with a mysterious particle which they believe could be the solution to Earth’s energy crisis. After one experiment goes wrong, however, the crew finds themselves lost in space with a mysterious passenger appearing on board. Things begin to get weird as the crew does what they can to get back home.
Easily the best thing about the first two Cloverfield movies is their originality. Cloverfield told a sci-fi disaster movie in a way that it’s never been done before, narrating the initial attack on New York City through one man’s hand-held camera. With 10 Cloverfield Lane, we got an intense psychological thriller that climaxes in an epic sci-fi way. If you want to call the marketing of the first two movies unconventional, then the stories themselves are about as unconventional as you can get. These films are intensely original, and these unique perspectives are what set the Cloverfield franchise apart with an awesome indie-vibe.
Unfortunately, when it comes to The Cloverfield Paradox, all the originality, creativity, narrative unconventionalism, and indie-vibe is lost in space. This film is strict sci-fi, with a narrative frame that is stolen directly from Gravity and Alien. The only place where The Cloverfield Paradox starts to become original is during the middle section of the film where some plot twists occur, resulting in a whole lot of bad ideas.
The film utilizes a pathetically lazy narrative technique where the inciting incident is something unexplainable. Where they take this, however, is to try and tell story where everything that results from the inciting incident is unexplainable as well. At no point in the story are these events explained, nor is the inciting incident clarified, requiring a sort of blind trust from the audience. This is already a big mistake, but where is got even worse was with the concepts that were born from the knowledge that the film didn’t have to explain what had happened. I won’t go into detail, I’ll just say that the magnet putty, the worms, the gyro, and especially the arm are some of the most ridiculous ideas ever put onto the screen. Ridiculous can be good, but it must be justified, either in the narrative or in the nature of the film in which it’s found. With this movie’s structure, the former was required. And when your explanation for the ridiculous is that it can’t be explained, it just becomes stupid.
The plot of this movie is no ordinary sore thumb. This is a thumb that has just lost a thumb-war to the Hindu Goddess Durga in a hammer factory. It’s regrettable, it’s a blatant mistake, and it never, ever should have happened. I wish I could say the film is redeemed by its talented cast or by the way it ties into the Cloverfield universe, but it just isn’t. I’m not entirely sure how this script got approved, and I know even less why it got approved as a Cloverfield film. Let’s just hope the fourth one gets released soon so we can forget The Cloverfield Paradox ever happened.
I give The Cloverfield Paradox a 4.2/10.