It’s the year 2008, and a common man New Yorker, Rob Hawkins, is about to go to Japan. His friends document a goodbye party as part of a farewell video. All the while, they’re expositing dialogue, setting up all conflicts and motivations among themselves. They discuss sexual relations between Rob and his friend Beth, express frustration toward the comic relief character, Hudson, and just capture the love and drama between friends when one of them is moving across countries. But, you know what’s never talked about, even casually? An energy crisis so bad that cars are just sitting in a pile up waiting for gas, portions of the city seem to just lose power, and an unrelated character attempted to siphon power for her own house causing it to burn down and kill her children. The Cloverfield Paradox is a movie that markets itself to be related to its franchise’s original film, Cloverfield, but, through details both minor and large, they couldn’t have done a better job confusing people that wanted to like it.
The Cloverfield Paradox, directed by Julius Onah, put bluntly, is a terrible addition to the Cloverfield franchise. Not only because the movie is a confusing mess with attempts at “horror,” but also because of its attempt to connect itself to the original film. Paradox was apparently once called The God Particle, altered by Bad Robot to become a Cloverfield movie, and the sloppy and lazy attempts to make that connection turn what could have been a relatively decent film into an infuriating and bewildering movie.
Paradox is mainly about a team of scientists and their attempts on the Cloverfield space station to hopefully discover potentially infinite energy. Through some scientific mishap, the station all of a sudden finds itself Earthless and stranded. From here, the crew experiences many, borderline asinine, bouts of horror, inter cut by kind-of-out-of-place comic relief and scenes back on earth where the original events of Cloverfield are supposed to be taking place.
So, ignoring the lack of casual talk in Cloverfield about the end of the world, the use of then impossible video chat, phones of the common era, and a giant Mass Effect style space station constantly had the question “what year is it?” come up.
Everything to do with Earth is what makes Paradox a poor addition to the franchise. Wikipedia states the events of Paradox take place in 2028, which better explains the space station and video chat, but not its connection to the original, or the rest of the set design. Details like this are usually minor, but become massively distracting when one is invested in the franchise. But that’s not what makes Earth a laughable setting in this movie. Bad Robot decided it was a good idea to keep reminding us that Paradox is connected to Cloverfield by occasionally pausing the main film and showing us benign, unrelated scenes involving a nearly unnecessary character and a child he saves in a blatant attempt to try to make the audience care he exists. Everything that happens on Earth doesn’t matter, and yet there’s a weirdly understandable reason for why things got as bad as they did, however, back on the space station, no such reason exists.
If the trailer is any indicator, a lot of weird stuff happens on the Cloverfield station. Now, usually the “why” is never important in a horror movie, but here, it seems vital. A movie like Event Horizon, has wonderfully terrifying and horrendous outcomes for its cast showcased with the understanding that the crew had opened a portal to Hell through their portal technology. Oh, everything terrible happening is supernatural and does not require any further explanation. Paradox says the crew and its station are interacting with a parallel dimension’s particles. Okay, so why does that mean an arm is moving on its own, why are worms, that you have with you for some reason, found inside of a crew member whose eye started going sideways, and why are parts of the ship being discovered inside people as well? There is a level of believability that can be breached when one involves the supernatural, but when one tries to make things scientific, the work has to be done. A character can’t just say, “our particles are interacting with theirs,” and then expect the audience to accept utter nonsense. See, ignoring the franchise connection attempt, this movie on its own does not work. Its horror falls flat in its ridiculousness and random nature, and happens to characters we know almost nothing about.
The cast of Paradox is actually very strong. Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays the main character, Ava, and was given an actually compelling storyline. Past her, though, everyone else just fits an archetype or are given one-note conflicts that hold no weight because the basis is not properly explored. When these people inhabit the screen, it’s obvious who they are and what they’ll be. David Oyelowo, as Kiel, actually has a good scene to himself that helps make all of his actions as a commander understandable and appreciable. Everyone else is frustratingly boring or laughably predictable in a movie that just becomes aggravating to sit through.
This movie had potential. Not Paradox, but God Particle. There is a montage at the beginning of the movie, showing the crew go through two years on the station trying to figure out the energy crisis, and it seems these could have been the needed scenes of character development, but due to Bad Robot’s agenda to make the Cloverfield connection, those much needed and desired scenes of development have been cut down or out. This final product is just baffling. How could a whole team of people think this is okay to show consumers and make them pay for it? I guess they figured they wouldn’t, and that’s why they sold it to Netflix.