I watched The Cloverfield Paradox, and would love to talk about it, if only I had the first clue about what the hell is going on. It’s being advertised as a classy Sci-Fi horror thriller, but it’s a muddled mess that looks like it was edited to within an inch of its life before being unceremoniously dumped into the Netflix Basement. Which is exactly what happened. This kind of a disaster is worth checking out, right?
Cloverfield Paradox (2018)
It’s never a good sign when all of a movie’s reviews point out how messy the post-production and release plans were. I will sum up the Cloverfield back story as best as I can. J.J. Abrams is doing a yeoman’s effort to produce quirky, off-beat sci-fi/horror movies. The kind Hollywood studios don’t like to make because they are creative movies that take risks and cost a lot of money. In order to promote them and give the movies some built-in franchise name recognition, they call them all “Cloverfield” something or other. The first one of these was Cloverfield, which turned out to be a found footage Kaiju film, which I think is terrific. This was followed by 10 Cloverfield Lane, which I still haven’t seen yet. The Cloverfield Paradox was originally called God Particle, which is overly pretentious for this half-baked potboiler, and it’s like the movie title equivalent of slapping a pair of nerdy glasses on an actor to make them seem smarter.
So what the hell happened here? The Cloverfield Paradox is not creative, inquisitive, or interesting. All the best bits are stolen from your usual Who’s Who of Serious Space Movies: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Silent Runnings, and the first two Alien movies, throw in some Gravity and freaking Event Horizon!?!? The plot, as far as I can recognize it, is that the planet Earth is somehow running out of energy. I’m not sure how this is possible with a blazing hot sun shooting down solar rays, wind turbines, and nuclear reactors, but okay, we’ll go with it. An impressive multi-cultural cast of astronauts on the spaceship “Cloverfield” are conducting super dangerous particle collider experiments in outer space, to create “limitless energy!? Again, not sure why that’s a viable plan, because we have nuclear fusion back on Earth, which is not the safest kind of energy, but will do in a pinch if the world is running out. Particle colliders are the least efficient energy creation source, since they use a massive amount of energy to run, and the chances of creating and then containing some sort of atomic explosion is so infinitesimal that it’s like making the centerpiece of your retirement plan spending $1,000 a week attempting to win the lottery.
There are two main kinds of stupid movies. One is where the filmmakers are smart enough to know they’re making a stupid movie. And the other one is The Cloverfield Paradox, where the filmmakers think they’re very smart, but they are too stupid to realize they’re making a stupid movie. I believe the idea they’re getting at here is based on one of the world ending theories that if you collide an atom of matter with an atom of anti-matter then theoretically you would create an anti-matter chain reaction that would wipe the entire planet out of existence. The problem in terms of energy creation is that you’ve created two protons worth of energy, which wouldn’t light Sioux Falls, South Dakota for 5 minutes, let alone create infinite worldwide energy, which the movie is suggesting.
Anyhow, we see a talk show broadcast of a creepy conspiracy theorist dude explaining how this collider experiment will likely create monsters or demons or worse. Man, if this experiment only created monsters or demons, we’d have a much better movie. But what I sort of think happens is that the chain reaction created a wormhole where two parallel universes are mushed together. Before you can say Act 2, the planet Earth has disappeared, but not in a world-ending anti-matter implosion, which would’ve been fun to see, it just disappeared, which is far less visually interesting. We’re supposed to wait breathlessly as all shipboard cameras scan for Earth. Nope, it’s gone. Boy was that tense.
Then in quick order, a screaming blonde woman is found embedded in their control panel and the ship’s worm experiment is embedded into Volkov, the Russian astronaut. Volkov’s right eyeball goes rogue and stops cooperating. Weird, but not scary. Then in possibly the dumbest moment in the movie, Volkov seems to be possessed and the voices in his head tell him to 3-D print up a gun and start shooting his crew members. What the hell?
The best sequence is spoiled by the trailers, because it is the only genuinely creepy, mysterious incident in the movie. Chris O’Dowd, who’s the only fun and entertaining part of this movie, gets his arm sucked into a mini-vortex in the ship’s hull. Then his arm comes back to give them advice about how to get out of their mess. “Way to go, arm,” cheers O’Dowd. O’Dowd is in an unintentionally funny, supernatural subplot as the spaceship keeps trying to off him in Final Destination style Rube Goldberg deathtraps.
An amazing cast of Oscar-caliber talent includes Zhang Ziyi, Gugu Mbatha Raw, David Oyelowo, O’Dowd, Daniel Bruhl, and John Ortiz is completely and totally wasted. Any two of these actors picked at random could make a better movie on their own. Instead, they are cast as random Redshirts waiting around to die in brutal, but uncompelling ways. Ziyi somehow drowns IN OUTER SPACE!?!? when a space capsule she’s in fills up with water, then explodes.
In fact, the ship Cloverfield has so many pieces dramatically explode that it’s absurd it even functions as a spaceship after the initial collider accident. Big chunks of the ship keep breaking off and go hurtling into space. Why are these people not more concerned about their imminent doom?
There are heinous crimes against cinema committed here. The wasting of the cast is the most obvious one, but there are others. Science is stomped on and abused worse than the spaceship. There are several scenes of fracturing glass and characters getting sucked into space, which just doesn’t happen in real life. There’s a dramatic attempt to fix the frim-frammer driver, or whatever, where shards of spaceship loudly and impossibly keep whirling around, creating a death field of shrapnel. Oh, and there’s the tacked on in post subplot where Gugu Mbatha Raw’s husband back on Earth rescues a little blonde girl and keeps seeing bad stuff happen that we never get to see.
The most baffling mystery is how all of these crazy, ridiculous pieces of movie have come together and created such a dull and tension-free film. After the collider experiment goes kerflooie, the idea of dwindling resources is abandoned, and nobody seems to have any urgency to try to fix the ship or resolve the time paradox dilemma. I want to recommend this as the kind of movie that’s so insane and ridiculous that it’s worth watching, but sadly it’s not. It’s boring and pointless, which are the worst cinematic crimes.
SPOILER ALERT: And just to make you question your sanity, or at least the sanity of the filmmakers, Cloverfield the Monster makes a cameo at the very end as the spaceship flies past. I laughed in complete and utter disbelief.