The Cloverfield Paradox Review: This Surprising Series Loses its Mysterious Bite

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J.J. Abrams has always leaned a little too hard on keeping his mysteries intact. The lead up to Star Trek Into Darkness forced a lot of blatant lying to the press and fans to hide something that should have just been known from the start, while despite all the secrecy, Star Wars: The Force Awakens didn’t really have a whole lot of mysteries to solve. The exception, though he hasn’t directed a single film in the franchise, has always been Cloverfield, with both previous films relying almost exclusively on character and tension building rather than what’s causing or the backstory of the stranger phenomena happening around those. And so, The Cloverfield Paradox feels like a paradox indeed as it flips the switch and is all about explaining how Cloverfield, 10 Cloverfield Lane, and whatever future the series has can belong in the same canon.

But wasn’t it more fun when it appeared that Abrams had weaved his own Twilight Zone-esque universe that allowed choice talent to come and flex their muscles in whatever way they chose? Here we are, ten years after the original, and director Matt Reeves has built a powerful, worthy filmography that exceeds past his jumping off point with Cloverfield. Meanwhile, I’m holding my breathe to see what Dan Trachtenberg is going to do on the big screen next following 10 Cloverfield Lane. Julius Onah’s The Cloverfield Paradox is where that feeling dies.

The film’s A-plot deals with a crew aboard the orbital Cloverfield Station in 2028 trying to successfully start a particle accelerator in space to solve an energy crisis down on Earth that has most nations on the brink of war. But after an attempt, the station is suddenly no longer near Earth, and a bunch of strange things start to happen across the ship. We’re led by Ava Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a crew member who lost her two children in a house fire, backstory which doesn’t really bare much significance as she’s barely written enough to have an arc. The crew is filled out by the likes of strong actors such as David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, and Chris O’Dowd, none of whoms’ characters can break the cliches of a typical space thriller.

The B-plot, down on Earth and seemingly caused by the A-plot, follows Ava’s husband, Michael (Roger Davies) as he navigates a world suddenly struck by monsters and their destruction. For anyone actually looking for The Cloverfield Paradox to connect the various films’ plots, there are elements of both predecessors here, though neither delivered with the means to satisfy. There are winks and nods abound, but they feel as such more than serving the actual development of this fictional universe.

If anything, the titular paradox merely uses hammily executed sci fi tropes to create said paradox in which the Cloverfield films can do whatever they want here on out, whether that be involving the plots already written or veering off into uncharted territory. We just didn’t need a film to tell us that, and with this sort of piss poor attention to the writing of the character arcs and overall story, this formal expansion to allow Cloverfield to spread its wings may be the very thing that ends up shooting the series down. Grade: D

By Matt Dougherty

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