‘The future unleashed every thing’
The Cloverfield Paradox is a 2018 American science fiction horror film directed by Julius Onah, written by Oren Uziel and Doug Jung, and produced by J. J. Abrams’s Bad Robot Productions. It follows Cloverfield (2008) and 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016).
The movie stars Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Aksel Hennie, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz, David Oyelowo, and Zhang Ziyi.
The film was based on God Particle, a spec script from Oren Uziel which had the main plot of the space station crew but unconnected to Cloverfield. The script was acquired by Paramount Pictures and Bad Robot in 2012.
Only during production did Abrams decide to link the film to Cloverfield, adapting Uziel’s screenplay and adding scenes to establish this connection, following the same approach used by 10 Cloverfield Lane from its original script, The Cellar.
The film was based on God Particle, a spec script from Oren Uziel which had the main plot of the space station crew but unconnected to Cloverfield. Only during production did Abrams decide to link the film to Cloverfield, adapting Uziel’s screenplay and adding scenes to establish this connection.
In the year 2028, Earth is suffering from a global energy crisis. The space agencies of the world prepare to test the Shepard particle accelerator aboard the orbiting Cloverfield Station, which would provide Earth with infinite energy, while conspiracy theorists fear it will create the “Cloverfield Paradox”, opening portals to allow horrors from parallel universes to threaten Earth.
Among the crew is Ava Hamilton, who frets about leaving her husband Michael, a doctor, potentially for years, as their relationship struggles since the loss of their children to a house fire.
After about two years of unsuccessful testing of the Shepard, they eventually achieve a seemingly stable beam, but it then overloads and creates a power surge on the station. After restoring basic power, they find Earth has vanished from view, and the gyroscope that aids in the station’s navigation is missing. As the crew work on repairs, strange events begin to occur, including finding an unfamiliar woman called Jensen fused with wires inside a wall. Volkov fears something crawling beneath his skin…
In theory, the idea of a film franchise emerging that brings together wildly different, and only vaguely connected stories should be something to celebrate. It is, after all, what John Carpenter wanted to do with the Halloween films when he produced Halloween III: Season of the Witch, and there is something admirable about the idea of sequels that don’t simply rehash the previous film(s).
Yet there’s something extraordinarily cynical about the Cloverfield franchise, which so far has seen two sequels that started out as entirely unrelated films before J.J. Abrams tweaked with the movies while they were in production to artificially graft them to his 2008 film. This is less universe building and more cashing in on a known name for no good reason.
Artistically, The Cloverfield Paradox – a clumsy, plodding science fiction movie that explores particle accelerators and multiverses (that word should be enough of a warning to viewers) within a decidedly woolly plot – doesn’t benefit from scenes that have been obviously crowbarred in to connect it to the other films in the series. They just make a plodding and frequently incoherent film even messier, and fail to address the myriad of problems that include some truly awful acting (Chris O’Dowd should, perhaps, stick to comedy – drama is not his forte), risible dialogue and a sluggish pace that is not helped by increasingly desperate moments of spectacle.
Director Julius Onah produces some pleasing visuals though fails to provide the film with any sense of drama, or to bring the thinly drawn, multinational characters to life. The grand tragedy of Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character Ava, who we are clearly supposed to empathise with, seems shallow and unconvincing, and – quite frankly – very, very clichéd. Chances are, you’ll find your attention wandering during the long-winded scene setting, given that neither the story or the characters offer anything to keep you hooked, and no amount of splashy sensationalism later can save it.
David Flint, MOVIES and MANIA
“The Super Bowl trailer for Paradox gave the impression the movie would reveal the origin of the monster that appeared in the 2008 movie and was later on hinted at in the critically acclaimed 2016 follow-up — but it barely did that. Instead, it stalls the franchise as a pastiche of sci-fi cinema veiled in clever marketing.” Deadline
“The standout here is Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Hamilton. She genuinely does add a lot of emotion and layers to the character that made me sympathize for her. […] The Cloverfield Paradox is a colossal disappointment as its script is incredibly lazy, has next to no suspense, and its characters are unlikable due to thin character development.” Daily Film Fix
“J.J. Abrams, whose name is on the film as a producer, perfected the so-called “mystery box” method of storytelling that promises profound and shattering revelations only to pivot to bromides like, “We should all be nicer to each other” or “Let’s learn to forgive ourselves.” The script to this one falls well within that wheelhouse.” RogerEbert.com
“I’m still not sure what the paradox of the title is. Perhaps it refers to the impossibility of offloading a film to Netflix at the 11th hour, as Paramount has done, and still expecting it to be a hit.” The Daily Telegraph
“In Paradox, one is mostly struck by the need to push Alien and a half-dozen similar films from our minds, in the hopes of giving a damn about the sub-par space-station action before us. Seeming to understand how underwhelming the drama is, Onah stages some of his pivotal crew debates off-camera, letting us listen to colleagues bicker while we watch, say, CG footage of the station’s moving parts.” The Hollywood Reporter
“Bogged down by generic action and characters, a confused plot, and an overall sense of been-there done-that, The Cloverfield Paradox, after a momentary burst of excitement, will likely fizzle out.” Film Inquiry:
“At its best, The Cloverfield Paradox is a serviceable space thriller. At its worst, it is a narratively flawed movie with some good acting and subpar character development. The lead character played by Gugu Mbatha Raw is the only one that we get any kind of significant information about […] The entire cast especially Raw do a great job with the material they are given, but it’s really just not enough to save the movie.” B4 Reviews
Cast and characters:
- Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Ava Hamilton
- David Oyelowo as Kiel
- Daniel Brühl as Ernst Schmidt
- John Ortiz as Monk Acosta
- Chris O’Dowd as Mundy
- Aksel Hennie as Volkov
- Zhang Ziyi as Tam
- Elizabeth Debicki as Mina Jensen
- Roger Davies as Michael Hamilton
- Clover Nee as Molly
Principal filming took place in Los Angeles from June 10, 2016, and wrapped on September 23, 2016.