by Benjamín Harguindey
The Cloverfield Paradox marks the third entry in the so-called Cloverfield franchise. The first movie, already a decade old, was a found footage horror flick about a Godzilla-style attack on nighttime NYC that benefitted from terrorism paranoia. The second movie, 10 Cloverfield Lane, ditched the shakycam and set up a hypertense thriller in an underground bunker while… something raged on outside.
Now comes “Paradox”, as ordered by Netflix to director Julius Onah and writer Oren Uziel (of Netflix’s Shimmer Lake), about an international group of astronauts caught in a freak interdimensional accident that seemingly wipes Earth off the map. If nothing else you have to admire the versatility of the “franchise”, but the movies are only faintly strung together by the one word on their titles and a recurring theme of sudden, confusing chaos as experienced from, so it’s not so much a franchise as a brand of plot twists.
You can extol “Paradox” for stealing from the right places. The movie doesn’t go on for a minute before it showcases the workaday grunge of Alien (1979) as its scientists quite literally print their breakfasts and lounge around playing foosball and breaking balls. Already we recognize our stalwart Ripley (Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Ava) and start telling apart the comic relief (Chris O’Dowd), the ticking time bomb (Aksel Hennie), etc. Make no mistake, the movie could’ve only benefitted from ripping off Ridley Scott. The problem is that it winds up hewing closer to Event Horizon (1997) on just about every count, from its nonsense plot to the “anything goes” school of scares.
The gist of the movie is lame and disappointingly simple: the “Cloverfield” space station in on a mission to solve the world’s energy crisis (somehow) when it goes through a freak accident involving multiple dimensions and… that’s about it. Characters start going about trying to figure things out and do the requisite repairs and one by one they get picked off in other freak occurrences that follow no discernible logic.
Nothing pays off. The energy crisis doesn’t pay off. A sabotage plot doesn’t pay off. That whole subplot involving Ava’s husband (Roger Davies) back on Earth, rescuing some girl from some fire and doing a whole lot of talking on the phone for the rest of the movie certainly doesn’t pay off. About the only two things that do pay off, if only in the most predictable fashion, are Ava’s stock traumatic loss and that mysterious apparition played by Elizabeth Debicki (one of two good things in the movie) who the crew of the Cloverfield discover horribly lodged in a tangle of metal and wire behind a wall (the scene is the other good thing).
A couple of years ago people identified the ending stretch of 10 Cloverfield Lane as the weakest portion of the movie because it felt tacked on out of necessity to link back, if only thematically, to the original 2008 movie. I maintain that finale, all 30 minutes of it, is entirely more at home than the single final shot of The Cloverfield Paradox, a response to a question that is entirely irrelevant to this movie or the preceding two. The best this movie can hope for is to inspire a cult following unto its lameness.
Benjamín Harguindey / Managing Editor, Writer (Mar del Plata, Argentina – 1989) Screenwriter graduated from Universidad del Cine, Buenos Aires. Benja’s worked for EscribiendoCine as a film critic since 2010, covering the Biarritz, San Sebastián and Venice festivals. He judged the CILECT Prize and won several writing & criticism contests. He’s published one novel, Noches de Tartaria (2006).