NETFLIX (2018)

 

Director: Julius Onah

 

Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris O’Dowd, Daniel Brühl, Aksel Hennie, John Ortiz, Zhang Ziyi

J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot sure know how to play the marketing game.

 

Originally entitled God Particle, The Cloverfield Paradox is a movie that has been collecting unused release dates like a bee does pollen. Its last slated release was April 2018, but then along came the Super Bowl and amongst the new trailers that dropped was one for this movie and the surprising message that it would be available to watch right after the game via Netflix. That’s some seriously good marketing and a first for a movie of this stature.

 

It’s also easy to see why it was shuffled to Netflix and not granted a wide release.

Set in an undisclosed time period, the Earth is on the brink of self-destruction. Energy is needed to ensure the continued survival of humanity, and with the looming threat of a World War for resources struggling to contain itself, an international team of scientists board the Cloverfield Space Station (sigh) to try and create sustainable energy using a potent particle accelerator - the Shepard. However, the accelerator is erratic and extremely dangerous, and after another failed attempt at successfully harbouring the required energy, the Earth seemingly disappears from outside the space station – but that’s the least of the crew’s worries as it turns out.

 

movies actual Cloverfield to incorporate narrative threads to include it into this ‘Clover-verse’, but it’s a shame that none of the The Cloverfield Paradox was re-written as God Particle) was very intriguing. In an attempt to save the planet, a group of scientists actually do more damage than they could have predicted – or in this case, actually lose the Earth (??). Great stuff, I thought. Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t play to its strengths and instead decides to stumble and grope through a flaccid, generic sci-fi second half. The intrigue was built throughout the first half of the movie, some cool ideas are set up and there was a fun element of mystery as the full terror of the situation the crew found themselves in began to manifest. The payoff of all of this lets any good work go to waste. Typical space peril conventions come flooding out all leading to a lousy, lazy tie-in to the Cloverfield universe. God Particle (or The Cloverfield ParadoxFirstly, the initial premise of seem to want to connect narratively.

 

A handy-looking cast is ultimately wasted by the story and patchy writing. Gugu Mbatha-Raw manages to carry the movie on her talented shoulders as Ava Hamilton and Chris O’Dowd seemed to confuse the movie for a Red Dwarf episode – but his comedic lines bought levity to an otherwise flat movie. The rest of the cast all perform ably but they aren’t really given a lot to play with. The writing is messy and uninspiring – dialogue mainly consists of people running around saying “What’s going on?”, “Why are you trapped in the wall?” and various streams of overly-techy language to cover the convoluted plot that revolves around a strange alternative dimension that revels in random chaos. Melodrama is drizzled all over the unfortunate Roger Davies, who is relegated to repeatedly delivering lines about his concern for the wellbeing of the Earth’s people whilst also thrown in to attempt to connect to the other entries into this flailing saga.

 

There are some good ‘horror’ set pieces in the movie, mainly involving severed limbs and worm-filled vomit, which hark back to space terror romps of old and these moments save the movie. These added to the intrigue that the movie initiated so well to begin with and provided stakes and much-needed dramatic tension. Whilst the writing does become convoluted, the addition of Elizabeth Debicki’s Mina Jensen in the second half provides an extra layer of mystery that does elevate the movie slightly higher, though her later actions should come as no surprise to anyone.

 

is there, however, the movie fails to follow up on the elements that it teases. It’s entertaining and mysterious at set up suffers mainly from being all smoke and no fire. The ideas are there, the performances are there, the obligatory marketing device was there, hell, even the The Cloverfield Paradoxtimes, but unfortunately couldn’t maintain the positive elements as the movie wore on. What’s next for the Cloverfield saga? Who knows, but watch out, because it could emerge from anywhere.

February 5th 2018

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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