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Review: The Cloverfield Paradox

Novel tactics of marketing and distribution are always something that increases the appeal towards a film. It moves against the established studio-based mainstream marketing machine in order to add a certain uniqueness to the picture. However, this relies on the film itself being similarly unique, which The Cloverfield Paradox is unfortunately not.

The Cloverfield Paradox is the third instalment in the ‘Cloververse’ series of films that began with Cloverfield in 2008, followed by 10 Cloverfield Lane in 2016. Much like the latter, ‘Paradox’ is a largely standalone film. It focuses on a group of astronauts who encounter trouble whilst looking to make a source of renewable energy in space. It results in the typical array of violent deaths and sci-fi set pieces which, if you had not gathered from that brief plot description, does not bring anything new to the genre. The characters fit into archetypes and the standard story developments take place, but this is not to say that it does not have its share of interesting set pieces, and many of those are carried out effectively. Despite theist is not like the sci-fi drama rule book has been re-written.

It is a shame, because the incredible spontaneous release of this film was a welcome break from the standard faire of months-long marketing campaigns that permeate through contemporary Hollywood. The announcement (broadcasted during the Super Bowl) that the film would be immediately available to watch on Netflix after the game, was a complete shock, and it added the considerable hype surrounding this film’s release. However, in retrospect, the delays and handing over of the film from Paramount to Netflix made sense; they were ditching a bad film. The only hope I have for the future is that this does not dissuade other studios from releasing films in a similar fashion.

The Cloverfield Paradox boasts a pretty impressive cast, almost all of whom are criminally underused. Daniel Bruhl and David Oyelowo are given roles that are barely more than stereotypes, relying on clichés for characterisation, rather than solid dialogue. Another notable waste of talent is Elizabeth Debicki, who turns out to be nothing more than a typical antagonist, with motivations that would not convince anyone. This is not to say that the actors themselves performed badly, just that the characters they were given were not great. In fact, Chris O’Dowd has some funny lines, but it was difficult to see him as more than just a walking punchline generator. Special praise should be given to Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who does manage to deliver some incredibly emotional scenes, and by the end of the film, was the only person on board the spaceship whom I had any kind of investment in.

I will avoid delving too deep into detail concerning the film’s ending, in order to avoid spoilers, but it would be best to describe it as direct. One of the greatest strengths of the Cloverfield franchise is that the connections between the films needed to be searched for, eagle-eyed viewers would search the previous instalments for Easter eggs and then delve into message boards or the alternate reality game set up by the films’ creators in order to find connections. It seems that in order to create an overarching narrative, or at least provide some explanation, Paradox has done away with subtlety, and instead opts to shove the connections in the viewers face. This sadly detracts from the interactive elements, leaving less to be discovered by the viewers.

Overall, The Cloverfield Paradox just feels like a re-treading of old ground, with clichés and stereotypes to match. Were it not for the interesting method of release, then I imagine that it would not have made much of a splash outside of the already-established fan base, which is a shame, as the series has potential to be something truley great.


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