Review: Netflix's surprise movie, 'The Cloverfield Paradox,' can't deliver on hype

Gugu Mbatha-Raw

Gugu Mbatha-Raw Courtesy of Netflix

It would be impossible to fully assess The Cloverfield Paradox without first discussing the circumstances of its release. Netflix, in a move considered ballsy even by their standards, aired the movie’s first trailer during Super Bowl LII and announced—Abrams-y twist!—that The Cloverfield Paradox would be available to stream immediately after the Big Game.

This is a landmark moment in movie history—and that’s not hyperbole either. As of February 4, 2018, every major TV event is now a potential announcement vehicle for the release of a movie most people didn’t even know existed. No beating people over the head with seven different trailers or other terrible miscellaneous promotional material. No salty, pre-release reviews by hack critics like me. Just a blank viewing slate. There’s something very cool about that.

As for the movie itself, we have a pretty mixed bag. Originally called God Particle, it was conceived as a story completely unrelated to the Cloverfield franchise. As a result of being shoehorned into a new and different universe, The Cloverfield Paradox suffers from stretchy plot points, open storylines, and weak editing. Yet, it’s not as horrendous as some are making it out to be; the latest Cloverfield installment is more uneven than outright offensive.

The film focuses on Ava Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a member of Cloverfield Station whose mission, along with the other crew members, is to activate the Shepard particle accelerator. If they can get the giant contraption working, they’ll unlock unlimited energy for a depleted Earth, though some believe turning the thing on will rip through the fabric of space-time and plague the world with demons and monsters. This, we’re told, is the titular paradox.

When things go wrong, the crew winds up transported to another dimension. While they figure out how to get back home, they’re besieged by seemingly random acts of bad luck and violence. A mysterious woman is found inside a wall, somebody loses an arm that then becomes sentient, one guy’s eyeball starts acting funny.

What’s unfortunate about TCP is that intriguing ideas don’t pay off and, worse, are sometimes left unresolved. This could be forgiven were there any indication of a direct sequel, but it’s not made explicitly clear that we’re getting that. If this is a standalone picture, there are way too many unanswered questions to make this a cohesive story or a great movie.

It’s certainly nothing special. The Cloverfield Paradox starts strong and offers at least some novelties among its space-horror clichés, yet ultimately doesn’t reach its potential. We get the sense TCP could have been a really intriguing one-off, as well as another viewing angle of this universe. The series’ second installment, 10 Cloverfield Lane, was a welcome surprise in that regard. As it stands, The Cloverfield Paradox lands firmly in meh territory.

At no extra cost to Netflix subscribers, it’s hard to complain. That said, the next time Netflix plays this card, the movie better be extraordinary.

The Cloverfield Paradox
Director: Julius Onah
Starring: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl
Rated: TV-MA
Theater: Now showing, Netflix