Thursday, February 8, 2018

[Review] The Cloverfield Paradox

2016's greatly tense, apocalyptic hostage thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane unfurled an expanded Cloverfield universe in a stunningly unique way. This past Sunday, while people were digesting the frenzy of the Super Bowl (and perhaps preparing for "This Is Us"), the highly secretive third piece of this monstrous world -- titled The Cloverfield Paradox -- had a surprise launch on Netflix. Now, I'm not going to go too deep into the release strategy, but I will express what I think about the film on its own terms. And unfortunately -- it's a major letdown. It isn't a film that lands with a thud... because it doesn't land at all.

Following a clunky opening, we're introduced to a crew aboard an elaborate space station. The ensemble is made up of Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, Chris O'Dowd, Aksel Hennie, and Zhang Ziyi. Their mission is to solve the Earth's energy crisis, but after experiencing a system malfunction, stumbling upon a mysterious passenger (who's stuck in the wall??), and dealing with an infestation of worms, the team must figure out how to survive and avoid mass disaster.

Like 10 Cloverfield Lane, this film is essentially its own contained story - just with some loosely connected tentacles to the growing Clover-verse. But unlike 10 Cloverfield Lane, this thing never pops with the same sort of intrigue, engagement, or craft. It's a perplexing bore that's laughably bad at times, and I don't mean in the amusing way -- I mean in the wow this is BAD way. Much of the film's problems begin with the dreadfully mediocre, unfocused, and tedious script. The plot feels like a slipshod patchwork job. A poorly executed pilot for something. An incomplete episode of "Black Mirror". It's a derivative mess that lacks any spark of originality or shred of a distinctive identity. In fact, it's resoundingly similar to last year's creature-in-space film Life -- except if there was a "Who wore it better?" contest, The Cloverfield Paradox would have to be the one to go home and change. Instead of a must-see event, it's more like a fake movie that Abed from "Community" would be watching.

The cast here is undeniably stellar though, which is why it's so disappointing that none of the characters are developed past one-dimensional 'people working a space station' types. Aesthetically, the film is visually unspectacular, even for a sci-fi space setting -- and I'm not just saying this because it's not on a gigantic movie theater screen. We're met with cheesy schlock, a mostly monotonous backdrop, and a production design that never feels tangible. It's almost as if you can sense the actors not knowing what to do with their hands. It's just difficult to care about anything going on here.

And then there's the ending. It's so incredibly cheap, shoehorned, and random that it might leave you rolling your eyes, blinking with disappointment, and scratching your head all at the same time. At least that's what I did.

( 3/10 )

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