Wow, that was pretty exciting and cool wasn’t it? To think we weren’t expecting THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX aka Cloverfield 3 to hit theatres till late April, then there is a rumor Paramount wants to sell it to Netflix, and a rumor turns into a reality with a Superbowl commercial advertising the film…and they release the film that very night on Netflix. Incredible. Great move and great advertising. But is the third Cloverfield a great movie? I’d say it is a very, very good movie, especially for Netflix, as this is their best original movie to come out (yes, better than Bright), but the one thing that keeps it from being great is that a lot of the Cloverfield stuff to link it to the other two movies feels a little tacked on, and the movie doesn’t feel theatrical, but those are minor quibbles.
I really like that this Cloverfield franchise is basically becoming a sci-fi/horror anthology that links to each other in the most subtle of ways. Even though those subtle ways could be argued as after thoughts or forceful connectivity. Let me back track a little. After the success of the original 2008 Cloverfield, which made a shit ton of profit, audiences were wanting more and was wondering where it would go. 8 years and nothing, just little blue balls teases from J.J. Abrams and company with really no official word as to any type of a sequel. Fast forward to 2016 and we get a random trailer for a film called 12 Cloverfield Lane. Producer J.J. Abrams comes out and says that while it is not a direct sequel to Cloverfield, it has “the DNA” of it, set in the same film universe, kind of like a “blood relative” to the previous film. And 12 Cloverfield Lane is a very, very good movie, except for that final act, which while necessary to keep it within this new universe, felt tacked on and anti-climatic. And we learned even more. 12 Cloverfield Lane was originally not even supposed to be part of this universe, it was a film originally titled, “The Cellar,” and then known as “Valencia” and J.J. Abrams production company acquired it, filmed it, added only a few nods to Cloverfield, with J.J. Abrams promising that a future film in the anthology series would tie the two films together.
And thankfully, with The Cloverfield Paradox, this anthology series gives us this connection sooner rather than later. Especially the final shot, which will have many a fans like me slack jawed and screaming with sci-fi joy and glee. But other than that fantastic final shot, and a couple of nods to the other two films (like Slusho and the name Cloverfield) this film could’ve been its own thing not linking at all to the universe. Doing some digging, Abrams and company almost did the exact same thing to this film as they did with 12 Cloverfield Lane, but with a little more planning, and a little more plot connecting (with Roger Davies character Michael, all those scenes were added after movie was already finished to have it in the Cloverfield universe). This movie was originally supposed to be called “God Particle.” And while the tacked on scenes to connect everything don’t feel as tacked on as they did with 12 Cloverfield Lane, you can still feel it and hope they do even more planning with this 4th film that is apparently already in the can.
But now let’s get to the movie and what works. The plot of The Cloverfield Paradox has these astronauts in space on this space station that has this large device on board that is supposed to solve the energy crisis, as it is revealed several countries are about to go to war because they are running out of options. I won’t say much so I don’t ruin the surprises, but lets just say the device works and doesn’t work, and they end up trying to solve a personal dark “reality” crisis of their own. That’s all I will say. The movie mostly really works other than a few bits of groan worthy dialogue. It works really way as a cool little sci-fi try to save a sort of apocalypse on Earth from happening tale while also adding in a couple of dashes of pure space horror.
It also works because it interweaves a personal tale with Gugu Mbatha-Raw‘s character and her family back on Earth (can’t give away too much of that either). In fact there are a lot of famous faces in this film, even though the other characters only get a few moments to shine and kind of lack in character development: Daniel Bruhl, David Oyelowo, Ziyi Zang, John Ortiz, Donal Logue, Elizabeth Debicki and Chris O’Dowd. But giving them all complete character development would’ve made this movie two and a half hours, which would’ve been too long as this hour and 43 minutes is nice, tight, and solidly good entertainment. The scenes that were filmed after wards with Roger Davies playing Mbatha-Raw’s character’s husband are interspersed with the astronauts tale, and into actually flows into the narrative pretty well, giving us a breather between a lot of shit that goes wrong on the ship. Even though yes, it kind of feels like those scenes were tacked on. But the acting is all fantastic even with some of the crummy dialogue. The visuals are really impressive as well considering this is a Netflix film, but then again it was supposed to be in theaters in a couple of months.
Which comes to the only other problem this movie has other than the dialogue: it doesn’t feel very theatrical. I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe it is the direction, or the cinematography, or the close quarters of everything, but the movie didn’t feel like it warranted a theatrical presentation. And maybe Paramount realized this too which is why they sold it to Netflix, as it is a perfect Netflix film. I just wish it felt more cinematic. It’s hard to explain how it doesn’t, especially when the visuals are actually pretty impressive, but trust me, you will probably feel it too.
But this film does connect the other two films in a couple of interesting ways, and it feels like it belongs as a part of the Cloverfield universe, and isn’t that all we really are asking for? This is a really good anthology series, even though if I were to rank them as my favorite to least favorite it would probably be in the order they were released. However, they are all about the same in terms of pulpy, entertainment, sci-fi quality. And that is hard for movies to do nowadays, so all props go to J.J. Abrams and his production team. And that final shot gave me a cinematic boner. It did, I’m sorry to say that and ruin what was a perfectly tame and concise review, but it did. That final shot was just icing on the cake that was the very good movie that came before it, and since I am a huge fan of the first film, and now this anthology, it gave me an unapologetic cinematic boner. You’re welcome for the image.