By Ryan Keating-Lambert

★★☆☆☆

The Cloverfield Paradox is a wholly conventional and typical sci-fi horror that does little for the genre and nothing for the mysterious universe to which it belongs.

Earth is in chaos and on the brink of war, and the inernational NASA crew of the ‘Cloverfield’ space station must successfully test and activate a ‘particle accelerator’ in order to solve the energy crisis. Cue monsters and Alien-esque space horror.

After a couple of years of rumours and fake titles, the third instalment in J.J. Abrams’ strangely alluring and clever sci-fi franchise unfortunately fails to impress.

It’s a strange film indeed, and a big project for new-comer director Julius Onah. Paradox made a surprise entrance on Netflix after a short teaser at the American Super Bowl last night. Both franchise fans and cinephiles alike were jumping for joy, especially after the success of the fantastic 10 Cloverfield Lane in 2016. For me, the surprise was the ultimate cure for Monday morning. Alas, the film is so mediocre that it’s almost hard to believe.

Despite a stellar cast of young and talented actors including Daniel Bruhl, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, John Ortiz, Ziyi Zhang, Chris O’Dowd and Elizabeth Debicki, Paradox criminally underuses characters and never gives them a chance to shine.

Leading lady Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Black Mirror: San Junipero), who plays Hamilton, is the only person that has any kind of back story, and that back story extends to ‘she has a family’. The sole purpose of most characters seemed to be only as numbers in a body count, and there is quite a body count. Chris O’Dowd’s light comedy is usually welcome in most films, but here it seems poorly timed and sometimes inappropriate considering the rest of the film’s dark and dank mood. 

Paradox takes all the best moments from classic sci-fi horrors like Alien, as well as from more recent attempts like last year’s entertaining but genre standard Life. A Cloverfield film however, is anything but. The first Cloverfield was a found-footage standout that kept you on your toes and brought a new platform to the monster movie, not to mention some puzzling and ingenious viral marketing campaigns and a genuinely unsettling atmosphere. The second, 10 Cloverfield Lane, was a masterful exercise in claustrophobia with characters reacting to extreme circumstances in wholly believable ways, not to mention fantastic performances from both Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman. There’s no originality in Paradox.

Although it does have more ground to cover than its predecessors, it’s still poorly executed. On top of the lack of character development the overall plot is just simple, conventional to sci-fi horror tropes, and sometimes just plain boring. There’s little mystery to be had here and the film tries to round up the franchise by connecting it to, presumably, the first film. Did we need that connection though? The beauty of the other two was not knowing.

This morning I switched on Netflix and thought ‘Yes. Best Monday ever!’ 90 minutes later it was just a regular Monday again.

Photo: Digital Spy UK

One thought on “The Cloverfield Paradox review – a monstrous let-down

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