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The Cloverfield Paradox movie review: A bafflingly bad film that feels like a rejected Black Mirror episode

The Cloverfield Paradox movie review: Netflix’s marketing for the movie was way more interesting than the film itself, which is a pockmark on the legacy of JJ Abrams, and an insult to its cast.

movie reviews Updated: Feb 09, 2018 13:08 IST
Rohan Naahar
Rohan Naahar
Hindustan Times
The Cloverfield Paradox,The Cloverfield Paradox movie review,The Cloverfield Paradox Review
David Oyelowo, John Ortiz and Gugu Mbatha-Raw have nothing to do in The Cloverfield Paradox but scream and act scared.(Netflix)

The Cloverfield Paradox
Director - Julius Onah
Cast - Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz, Aksel Hennie, Daniel Bruhl, Zhang Ziyi, Elizabeth Debicki
Rating - 1/5

Since it’s virtually impossible to discuss The Cloverfield Paradox without inadvertently revealing spoilers (and attracting the wrath of the internet), let’s have some fun and imagine, for a moment — keeping with the theme of this movie — three alternate realities.

There is a podcast hosted by the comedians Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas and June Diane Raphael called How Did This Get Made? On the show, they talk about really bad movies — the worst of the worst; the sort that Amanda Waller would put in a hole and throw away the hole and then enlist to join the Suicide Squad. The conversations can sometimes go on for as long as two hours as the hosts offer rambling speculation about the chain of bad decisions that must have gone into producing those movies. I’d be willing to bet good money that The Cloverfield Paradox will be featured on a future episode.

So we might as well kick things off already. I’ve come up with three possible scenarios that could possibly explain how such a bafflingly bad movie was made.

Chris O’Dowd is thinking what you’re thinking. ( Netflix )

Scenario 1:

After having completed production on the film, Paramount Pictures had the decidedly late brainwave that they could capitalise on the increasingly popular Cloverfield brand and rework the movie as a new chapter in the series. Director Julius Onah was sidelined in favour of producer JJ Abrams, who was forced to reshoot the film — I could swear some portions were directed by him — and incorporate it into the Cloverfield Universe. Unhappy with the final movie, Paramount, having completely lost faith in the project, decided to launch it into space, from where it was rescued by Netflix.

Scenario 2:

Paramount Pictures began production on a movie without a finished script, and midway through production, hired a new writer to rework it as a Cloverfield installment. When the plan backfired, they completely lost faith in the project and launched the film into space, from where it was rescued by Netflix.

Scenario 3:

Paramount, Abrams and Onah always intended this movie to be a part of the Cloverfield Universe, and it was simply because of a series of bad breaks that it ended up not meeting the standards of the studio, who had by then completely lost faith in the project and launched it into space, from where it was rescued by Netflix.

Daniel Bruhl and Zhang Ziyi consider their options. ( Netflix )

Regardless of which scenario actually happened, there is one common thread: Paramount lost faith in this movie. They abandoned it in space. Whether or not Netflix did it a favour by rescuing it is another matter.

Since its surprise release on Monday morning, there have been several comments online suggesting that, were the audience to temper their expectations and treat The Cloverfield Paradox as “just another Netflix movie,” then the chances of them enjoying it would significantly improve. There’s so much wrong with this sentiment. The first, and most worrying observation would be that, in the eyes of the general moviegoer, a Netflix movie is somehow synonymous with mediocrity — the sort of movie that would never merit a trip to the theatre, so it’s comparatively less disappointing if it turns out to be terrible.

That’s hardly an image Netflix would want to foster. Only a couple of years ago, it was seen as the destination for prestige content, and as an empowering place of creative freedom, but that was before they unleashed an unstoppable string of Adam Sandler comedies and Bright (which I liked, but most people didn’t).

Midway through the movie, The Cloverfield Project rips a page right out of Alex Garland’s book and turns into Sunshine. ( Netflix )

For The Cloverfield Paradox to turn out to be as plodding and poorly conceived as it did, is disappointing, to say the least. Especially since I have, over the last decade, developed a strong fandom for this series. I watched the first movie four times in one week, back in 2008.

What made that movie special was that it employed a unique new perspective (literally) to a genre that had been done to death. It reduced the apocalypse to one, hilariously inept man’s point of view. Even 2016’s surprise sequel, 10 Cloverfield Lane, was a bold new take on a familiar set-up. The problem with this movie is that it has no perspective despite the connections it insists on shoehorning in. It’s a generic Alien clone tacked onto a different franchise.

An entire parallel Earthbound plot — most of the movie is set in outer space — gives off a very strong whiff of something that was added months after the movie was finished, in an attempt to tie it into the Cloverfield Universe.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw was supposed to be the anchor that grounded it all, but the chain broke. ( Netflix )

So much happens in this movie, and yet, we get nowhere. There is an underwater sequence that ends with the water turning into ice (remember, this movie is set on a space station); a character has their hand chopped off and promptly makes a joke about it, while the severed hand spends the rest of the movie crawling about like Thing from The Addams Family. There is even a scene lifted directly from the chestbuster sequence from the first Alien movie. Only this time, perhaps keeping in line with the rest of The Cloverfield Paradox, instead of a murderous xenomorph, a can of worms erupts from the infected person’s body.

What a waste of a fantastic cast, and a top-of-the-line crew, particularly star Gugu Mbatha-Raw and composer Bear McCreary. You can really tell they put effort into this, but that anonymous internet person was right. It’s just another Netflix movie. Let’s hope Overlord, the purported fourth in the series, isn’t abandoned in a similar fashion.

Watch the Cloverfield Paradox trailer here

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The author tweets @RohanNaahar

First Published: Feb 06, 2018 09:07 IST