Written by Aaron Radcliff:
Picture it, readers: I was watching yet another Super Bowl between two teams I don’t root for (mark my words, the Rams will be back someday). I had my food and I had football. How could it get better? Well imagine my surprise when Netflix dropped a trailer for the latest iteration into the Cloverfield franchise. Not only that, but they made the movie available immediately after the game. So here we are with the latest chapter of the J.J. Abrams brainchild.
The Cloverfield Paradox (or God Particle as it was previously known) tells the story of an international crew of astronauts who find themselves struggling to find their way home after the Earth mysteriously vanishes. This was knowledge we already had, but what makes the movie interesting is the fact that it is told concurrently with the events of the first film.
I will say that I think this will be more polarizing than the last film. But whereas 10 Cloverfield Lane caught people off-guard by the seeming disconnect between it and the first film, Paradox will be more off-putting by the quality and the story.
If you look at the movie purely on its own or have only followed the franchise at face value, then there’s a good chance you’ll find it average at best, bad at worst. The acting is pretty good for the most part and each character does enough to be distinguishable and memorable (especially the goofy Mundy, played by Chris O’Dowd), the settings are aesthetically pleasing, with some shots being absolutely beautiful, and the writing hits some of the lore of the universe hard.
The thing I appreciated most about the story was how they managed to give answers and connections to things established in the prior two films (although greater focus was given to the first). As someone who is ass-deep into the lore of this series, I absolutely ate all of that up. It managed to give enough answers to connect some dots while presenting other questions. However, if you aren’t as “in” to the franchise as the writers hope you are at this point, a lot of it could either go over your head or just be inconsequential.
The main story focus of getting home played more as a B-level mix between Life and Interstellar, serving more as a means to carry out the connections between the movies rather than building its own solid story first and then focusing on the smaller aspects.
The concurrent storytelling, while helping add some layers to the lore, ultimately works at a disadvantage and was the real nadir of the film. The majority of the story focuses on the astronauts, but there are solid chunks of time dedicated to the husband of one of the crew who is in New York during the events of the first film and his story arch ultimately achieves nothing. Granted it could come back in a future film, but if it was cut out, it wouldn’t affect the plot much if at all.
Also, the final 30 minutes do start to get a little sideways. The first hour worked well as space drama with snippets of tension and horror that were extremely effective. At one point I thought I’d accidentally turned on the original Alien, but then the tone readjusts its course and focuses purely on getting home. It would’ve worked fine that way, but the latter act really does start to throw things off track. While it makes sense in the context of the plot and you can kind of see it coming, it just feels forced. You’d think the drama of getting home from outer space would be enough.
Ultimately, this is a movie geared toward the fans and Netflix was the perfect place to release it. Given the overall quality and the focus of the story, I think it’s safe to assume it wouldn’t have performed as well as hoped at the box office given how the last film (despite being good) did sour some audiences. At the end of the day, this is just an average film. The twisty plot and back-and-forth story will work for some and not for others. But for me, it all comes back to the lore.
I truly am hugely into the lore of this series. So having another entry to the franchise to nitpick and connect red string to was fun. Being able to pinpoint different things and hear “throw-away” lines which could actually lead to some big revelations in the upcoming fourth film later this year, Overlord, was an absolute joy. So, for me, this film worked and I liked it a lot. However, I can recognize that for a lot of people, it may fall flat. That’s the glory of being on Netflix.
If you liked it, great. And if it gets you into learning more of the backstory, even better.
And if you hated it? Well, you can always rewatch Stranger Things for the hundredth time.
Score: 7 out of 10
Image via Netflix