If you want to see Spaceman David Oyelowo bark through gritted teeth, “This dimension is eating us alive!” then Julius Onah's The Cloverfield Paradox is a movie for you. If you ironically enjoy B movies that shamelessly leverage dead children for unearned pathos, then this is a movie for you. If you're eager to consume the latest acquisition absorbed by Netflix's slowly advancing Media Blob, ejected in front of an unexpecting Super Bowl audience like a tray of stale Grandma wafers, then this is a film for you.
If you're even a little hopeful about the Cloverfield anthology franchise, then this is not a movie for you. The Cloverfield Paradox, despite starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daniel Brühl, Oyelowo and an incredible, diverse roster of talented actors too numerous to list, is easily the worst film to be released under the J.J. Abrams-produced Cloverfield banner. The last entry, 10 Cloverfield Lane, was a surprisingly excellent Hitchcockian chamber piece; The Cloverfield Paradox plays like an undiscerning and ludicrous mashup of Alien, Sunshine, Event Horizon and the Philadelphia Experiment legend, with a glimmer of second-rate Tarkovsky thrown in. And yes, some loose connecting threads keep things vaguely in the Cloverfield universe (including the title sequence and a now-recurring cameo by Suzanne Cryer).
Earth's energy resources will be depleted in five years, we learn, and unless a giant particle accelerator in space can be made operational and provide free energy, bad things will happen. The Earth timeline roughly resembles 2018 – everyone drives gas cars and uses iPhones – while the particle accelerator space station, seemingly from the distant future and appearing to cost roughly ninety-two trillion dollars, was somehow fast-tracked into orbit. “The Cloverfield Paradox” (as explained by Scientist Donal Logue) refers to a theory that experimenting with too much energy could rip the fabric of space-time, opening a portal for all kinds of kooky inter-dimensional mayhem.
It's almost not worth mentioning that, no, things don't go as planned on the space station. The inevitable inter-dimensional mayhem does provide a few light thrills (I'm thinking of the lazy eye and the severed arm), and The Cloverfield Paradox boasts decent production values overall, at least aboard the space station (that magnetic putty stuff is pretty neat). But it's also the kind of movie where a chilling roar is heard inside the walls, and characters decide the most sound action is to immediately remove a wall panel. Radio transmissions conveniently cut out just before the most crucial information. Et cetera. You can't fault the actors – all are doing their professional best with the material at hand, but it boggles the mind that so many outstanding talents would sign on for this sloppy mess of a script. The Cloverfield Paradox (previously titled God Particle) reportedly followed a circuitous path to reach Netflix, and whatever the details, the results certainly smell of too many cooks spoiling the 3D-printed broth.
So far, the Cloverfield universe has given us a pretty solid film, a pretty great one and an undeniable dud – if the franchise can at least maintain this average over the long run, perhaps it's worthwhile. But it may take some time to evacuate the stale memory of The Cloverfield Paradox from the space vents of our minds.