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Review: The Cloverfield Paradox

A franchise paradox

The Cloverfield franchise has been a series that mysteriously pops in and out of the public conscience. They don’t operate using big media pushes. They don’t even have a trailer that tells you what the plot of the film is, as is the case of The Cloverfield Paradox. 

Initially set at Paramount Studios, rumors started spreading a month ago that the J.J. Abrams-produced franchise was going to jump from the big screen to the small screen via the streaming service Netflix. However, no one expected to not only see a trailer for the 3rd film in the Cloverfield franchise during the Super Bowl but also have an announcement that the film would then be streaming after the game.

Well played Netflix.

Relatively new director Julius Onah (who has mostly directed shorts and documentaries up to this point) directs a diverse cast of actors including Gugu Mbatha-RawDavid OyelowoDaniel BrühlJohn OrtizChris O’DowdAksel HennieElizabeth DebickiZiyi ZhangRoger Davies


“Orbiting a planet on the brink of war, scientists test a device to solve an energy crisis, and end up face-to-face with a dark alternate reality.”

Despite two successful previous franchise entries with 2008’s Cloverfield and 2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Cloverfield Paradox landed on Netflix. Like the title, the film is something of a paradox. Mixing and mashing time travel with alternate dimensions, Paradox early on reveals itself to be a prequel to the first two films. The film focuses on its two central characters, Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and her husband Michael (Roger Davies) as Hamilton’s story takes place in space on the Cloverfield space station and Michael is back on Earth dealing with the crises we know about from the two previous films.
On the space station, Hamilton works diligently with her multinational and very dysfunctional crew trying to achieve a new clean energy source through a powerful mechanism known as “The Shepard.” It is humanity’s great white hope in the face of a world on the verge of war. But when a power surge occurs not only does it cripple Shepard it also sends the crew spinning out of the sight of the Earth. The crew begins to realize things are far worse than being thrown off course by a power surge.

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The rest of the film plays like a cross between films like “Life” and “Event Horizon” only to a lesser degree. Paradox tries to retrofit itself into the Cloverfield franchise by revealing through a news interview, that Hamilton pays half attention to while on the station, that a crackpot theorist (Donal Logue) had written a book called “The Cloverfield Paradox.”
The theorist goes onto to say that in his book he hypothesizes that an energy surge like the one being tested by The Shepherd could not only potentially open doorways into time and space it could even distort the past and the future as well. Essentially causing realities to bleed into one another without end. When asked what the doorway would be opened to the theorist suggests outlandish concepts such as monsters and demons.
When the station is displaced in an alternate reality, the station itself changes as well. Like a body trying to rid itself of a virus, the ship starts to attack the crew through various means. Time warping causes a slew of worms into the body of one crewman while another is stuck in a control panel with wires and pipes penetrating through her as if she was part of the circuitry.
When Hamilton realizes that the mysterious woman in the wall, Jensen (Elizabeth Debicki), isn’t apart of the crew, Jensen explains that this is her station, but this isn’t her crew. Jensen is from an alternate universe where the station had blown up, and everyone on the crew had died. Except for Hamilton who was not apart of the crew. Instead, choosing to stay on Earth and work in the command center to be close to her children. Children that the Hamilton on the station had lost in a fire. Hamilton is then left with an impossible moral decision, stay on course and get back to her timeline or be with the children she lost.
Meanwhile, on Earth Michael is dealing with the events of the original Cloverfield film. He rescues a little girl in the rumble of a hospital. The two find refuge in a shelter to wait out the giant creature’s rampage. Back on the station things ramp up to a series of cliched double-crosses, chasing, and shootings that end with few crew members making it out alive.
At this point of the film that it starts to lose some steam as the movie feels like its just checking off a box list of things to get done than selling the drama of a crew trying to get home. However, the ending does have an excellent bow that ties it back into the original Cloverfield and sets up the next Cloverfield film nicely. (Cloverfield 4 was revealed to be not only happening but already filmed. Going by the name “Overlord,” the upcoming film is said to take place in a World War 2 setting which ties back into Donal Logue’s Theorist character the fourth film referred to. The Shepherd surge effect on time and space in both the past, present and future.)
Despite its clunky and predictable third act, Paradox remains a fun sci-fi film that in the end sets up better future films than it does being its own good film.

 Watch: The Cloverfield Paradox Trailer

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