As a big fan of Alien, I really enjoyed The Cloverfield Paradox … to a point. Then the second half happened and I kept thinking of the Geico commercial with the old fisherman saying ‘oooh you almost had it.’
This is a film that gradually loses its way over a series of ‘almosts’ and ‘so close’ moments.
Earth is facing a major energy crisis. A team of scientists travel to space hoping to discover a renewable energy source. Cloverfield Paradox boasts an impressively diverse cast headlined by David Oyelowo (Selma) as Captain Kiel, Daniel Brul, Ziyi Zhang, John Ortiz, Chris O’Dowd and Aksel Hennie.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw is Ava Hamilton, the brilliant, but haunted energy researcher. Ava is still grieving a loss back home that prompted her decision to accept the mission.
As the mission drags on, hope slowly starts fading. The crew only has a few more chances to find results and tensions are running high. Several countries are on the verge of a war to seize the remaining resources. Ava has extra incentive as her husband, Michael (Roger Davies), patiently waits on her return.
One of the desperate final attempts has an unexpected result with the arrival of Jensen (Elizabeth Debicki). Complicating matters, Jensen already knows the crew who’s never seen her before. But Jensen isn’t the only new arrival.
Aboard the space station it seems like a malevolent presence is also on board. And for some inexplicable reason, this force has it in for the crew. In the Final Destination series, that force is death itself seeking to atone for lucky individuals initially escaping its clutches. If you want to play fill in the monster truck sized plot hole, maybe that’s an acceptable answer with Cloverfield Paradox?
Screenwriter Oren Uziel needed to provide more insight and seems to hope the audience will just go along with. At least most of the death sequences look cool. Uziel also seems to ditch character development midway through. One character loses something very important and bizarrely treats it matter-of-fact setting up a weirdly inappropriate comic relief segment. Michael’s subplot plays out with seemingly little purpose save a very loose tie-in to Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane. This is an odd trilogy in that there’s few obvious connections and a greater link definitely would have helped this film.
Director Julius Onah does an amazing job establishing the mood and stakes. With a $26 million budget, Onah doesn’t have a lot of money to blow, but he shows a blockbuster budget isn’t necessary to create an engaging sci-fi film.
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For some perspective, Matt Damon’s The Martian had a $108 million budget and Sandra Bullock’s Gravity had a $100 million budget. For just over a quarter of those high profile films, Onah made a film that looks every bit as polished and smooth.
The cast is solid, making the sparse material work better than it probably should thanks to their performances. Mbatha-Raw gets the most moments to shine and she offers a reminder why she’s such an underrated great talent. Bruhl and Debicki also maximize their screen time. Oyelowo is somewhat wasted, but his character doesn’t require the spotlight.
For the first hour, The Cloverfield Paradox really looked like it could potentially exceed its predecessors. But after a problematic second half, it loses its way.
Is it worth checking out on Netflix? For genre fans… a ‘maybe’ with some hesitation. The logic pitfalls really hurt, but until then it’s a lot of fun. For those seeking a more consistent experience, this is probably one to skip.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix