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“The Cloverfield Paradox” expands the unlikely cinematic universe

On Sunday night, during the Super Bowl (and as a Jet fan, it’s a relief not to see the Patriots win for a change), a number of exciting Trailers dropped. There were fun looks at Avengers: Infinity War, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and more, but the one film that really captured the imagination was The Cloverfield Paradox. Once known as God Particle, this was always rumored to have been reconfigured as a Cloverfield outing, much like 10 Cloverfield Lane, and the Teaser, then Trailer made that clear. Not only had Netflix officially acquired it, but they released it right after the game ended. Having watched it, I can say that it’s unfortunately a mess of a movie, but for fans of this franchise, it offers some juicy tidbits.

The film is a science fiction thriller, set within the Cloverfield universe. When it was called God Particle, this was the meager plot synopsis: “God Particle focuses on a group of astronauts aboard an international space station who make a shocking discovery and must fight for their survival.” Once it was revealed to be what it was, the description was updated on IMDb to be this: “Orbiting a planet on the brink of war, scientists test a device to solve an energy crisis, and end up face-to-face with a dark alternate reality.” Well, that does describe things, though the connection to Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane does feel tacked on. Essentially, the team of Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), Kiel (David Oyelowo), Schmidt (Daniel Brühl), Monk (John Ortiz), Mundy (Chris O’Dowd), Tam (Ziyi Zhang), and Volkov (Aksel Hennie) are on a mission to use a particle accelerator in space in order to hopefully discover an energy source that can save a struggling Earth. Instead, it seems to transport them into an alternate dimension, leading to all sorts of weird nonsense. Julius Onah directs a script by Doug Jung and Oren Uziel, with the cast also including Roger Davies, Elizabeth Debicki, Donal Logue, and more. Dan Mindel provides the cinematography, while Bear McCreary composed the score. Of course, J.J. Abrams produces.

Despite some interesting moments, this feels like a failure to me. The filmmaking is incredibly bland, the story can’t figure out if it’s having fun with the weirdness or not, and the tie in to Cloverfield is gimmicky, leaving you with way more questions than answers. Frankly, it’s also a waste of a talented cast too. As much as it’s a bad look for Paramount to not put this out in theaters, it’s also somewhat understandable considering the quality is not up to snuff. Netflix found a clever way to drum up some publicity, but once folks actually saw it, the buzz has been decidedly negative.

There’s apparently a fourth installment coming later on this year, presumably another retrofitted film too. That one is currently called Overlord (before it becomes Cloverlord or something) and is only described as “The story of two American soldiers behind enemy lines on D Day.” Scheduled for release on October 26th, it could further complicate the Cloverfield universe. I was delighted by 10 Cloverfield Lane, after loving Cloverfield, but the franchise might have jumped the shark at this point. One good one can fix a bad one, for sure, but at the very least, my enthusiasm for the idea has waned a great deal.

For those wondering, this is how I rank the Clover-verse so far:

1. Cloverfield
2. 10 Cloverfield Lane
3. The Cloverfield Paradox

Available to watch right now on Netflix, The Cloverfield Paradox could intrigue fans, but the film itself is a real letdown. The idea of dropping sequels as surprises is a solid one, but we need more products that are like 10 Cloverfield Lane (or even the initial surprise that was Cloverfield), not The Cloverfield Paradox. Removed from the franchise, this is almost direct to video level stuff. If you didn’t already jump on this one on Sunday night, the appeal might have waned by now. If not, this is really only for fans of the franchise. No one else really needs apply…

Be sure to check out The Cloverfield Paradox if you’re a fan, streaming on Netflix currently!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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