Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Film Review: The Cloverfield Paradox

The third Cloverfield film possesses very little of the uniqueness and tension of its predecessors. 

The Cloverfield Paradox posits a near(ish) future where Earth is ravaged by war, famine and strife. To combat a growing energy crisis, a team of scientists are stationed on a satellite that is armed with a Hadron Collider; their goal is to establish a form of perpetual energy source for the planet below, but all manner of weird shit starts to go down after the device suffers a malfunction.

With a star-studded cast that includes Gugu Mbatha-Raw as comms officer Hamilton, Daniel Bruhl as chief scientist Schmidt, David Oyelowo as Kiel and Chris O'Dowd as Mundy, The Cloverfield Paradox is simultaneously noteworthy and forgettable.

Its premise – science project goes wrong and all of time, space and reality is torn asunder – is standard sci-fi fare, so much so that it often feels like a particularly ambitious or slick episode of Doctor Who. In fact, there are a whole host of other properties that The Cloverfield Paradox pulls from; one sequence pays homage Alien's most iconic moment, the claustrophobic hallways recall  Event Horizon and a couple of lighter moments seem to have been lifted from Red Dwarf.

That's not really a good thing though; the disparate influences create an uneven tone, with what starts out as fairly unnerving soon dissolving into goofy and whimsical. As reality bends and bites, spewing out all manner of weird goings-on, the crew react with an odd concoction of terror, bemusement and amusement. A development that sees Mundy lose an arm is treated as a gag rather than the shocking moment of gore it could've been. If you're worried about The Cloverfield Paradox being too scary, you can rest assured – it isn't scary. Like, at all. And this is coming from a total wuss.

What else can I say about this film other than it's been out for two days (!) and people have already moved on. The Cloverfield Paradox experiment, from announcement to release and subsequent critical damnation, has been an intriguing one to watch unfold, and markedly more interesting that the film itself is deserving of.

Unleashing this latest Cloverfield instalment on audiences via Netflix isn't some kind of masterstroke; it's the work of a spin doctor who sat through the movie and decided to market it as some kind of milestone event, complete with Superbowl spot. It worked – we all talked about it very briefly and Netflix probably paid a tidy packet for the privilege – but for all the chatter its generated, The Cloverfield Paradox is a remarkably unremarkable film that starts out strong and quickly fizzles out. Art imitating life, you could say.

The Verdict: 4/10

Ten years ago this would've scooted into a few theatres, lost some money and scuttled away to live out the rest of its life at the bottom of a bargain bin. If I was scoring on marketing ploys, The Cloverfield Paradox would get a 10. However, given that I'm reviewing the actual film, it scores a measly four – muddled, derivative and not even remotely spooky.

The Cloverfield Paradox is on Netflix now.

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