They've travelled dimensions and lost the Earth in the process - and all of our interest too.
Originally set for theatrical release this coming April, what was originally titled God Particle pulled a big ol’ Cloverfield power move and dropped on Netflix after Sunday’s Superbowl mere hours after the first trailer rocked up between touch-downs. What seems to be in-tune with the earlier marketing of the Cloverfield franchise (the trailer for 2008’s Cloverfield didn’t even include the film’s title whilst 10 Cloverfield Lane arrived 8 years later with just a month’s notice) in retrospect looks a little like a last-ditch attempt to win eyeballs before any reaction to the movie could leak. Which isn’t at all surprising, given that after two years of waiting and three push-back dates, all the third instalment of the Cloverfield franchise amounts to be is an exhaustingly obnoxious sci-fi with an unfortunate affiliation to its namesake.
The Cloverfield Paradox feels like, by and large, a galactic mess of a straight-to-dvd sequel to last year’s Life. Except this time there’s not much of a monster and nothing in the vein of Life’s Calvin, unless you include the magnetic goo used to kill off one of its titular characters teased in the Superbowl trailer. In fact, the supposed supernatural happenings of the film’s 102-minute run-time are constantly boiled down to being mere effects of the multi-verse being ripped open by the team’s particle accelerator. That’s right – finally, the long rumoured theory that the events in the Cloverfield films take place among several different universes has been pretty much confirmed and The Cloverfield Paradox takes little time to latch on and thrash around whatever lurid effects it wants to pass off as rational. Never mind the herculean monsters from the two films before (Clover in the first, John Goodman in the second), The Cloverfield Paradox has it all covered. One man with a wonky eye, a voice inside his head, and millions of worms projecting from his body? Got it! Chris O’ Dowd’s arm inhaled by a wall and pulled clean off, only for it to start moving by itself, Addams Family style? We got it! The same hand telling the crew (????) to cut a dead man open (??????), only for them to find the very key they need to get home right inside of him (Are you still with me?)? Brilliant, we’ve only gone and got that too! You’ll spend the entire hour and forty minutes waiting for the end to offer something in the ballpark of an explanation and you’ll be left with producer J.J. Abrams’ faint cry: ‘IT’S THE MULTI-VERSE YOU FOOLS, DEAL WITH IT’ as the credits begin to roll.
Bearing in mind that the multi-verse route not only allows minimal explanation for the previous two films and their connection – an explanation which was long-awaited and had been under hot debate – but also means the Cloverfield franchise can go whatever direction it bloody well wants to, with little or no need to offer justification when it gets there. And it will, supposedly later this year, with Overlord. The Abrams-produced feature will supposedly follow two American paratroopers during World War 2 who are shot down over Normandy in the midst of the D-Day invasion only to discover the Nazis are using supernatural forces against them. If it really is Cloverfield 4, it’ll mark the first time the Cloverfield universe will be set in the past which is, thanks to The Cloverfield Paradox, apparently feasible – Ocarina of Time style. And it’s as much of a cop-out as you’d expect.
It’s frustratingly difficult to discern whether much of the film’s wooden scenes stem from a poor script or what I can only assume are the collective off-days of its all-star cast for the first twenty-minutes or so. The problem becomes less so once the crew find the particle-accelerator’s gyroscope, an integral part of the accelerator that conveniently goes missing as they rip through dimensions, entrenched deep in the corpse of the man that had just projectile vomited millions of worms that I’m under the impression we’re meant to believe were talking to him inside his head. Glad we have that settled, then: it’s the script – absolutely the script. In fact, many of the performances are actually pretty bloody good. Gugu Mbatha-Raw (who you’ve probably seen in Black Mirror’s ‘San Junipero’, or season 3 of Doctor Who) gives as strong a performance as she can as Ava Hamilton with the ungodly mess she’s given, whilst Zhang Zhi gets to act completely in Chinese. Daniel Bruhl too follows suit as the more restrained Schmidt, who is a German man with a British accent and with (surprise, surprise) no explanation r.e: the discrepancy. Perhaps most disappointing is Chris O’Dowd, who is a fine piece of, if somewhat misplaced, comic relief but the film never takes the overtly obvious step of having him say “have ya troid tornin’ it off and on again?”
Behind Abrams is a wildfire of unexplained plot holes and muted reasoning, and this time he can’t leave it up to the Cloverfield fanatics to put the pieces together. Apparently in the future, everyone wants to (and can) name everything ‘Cloverfield.’ Space stations, monsters, street signs – you, uh, name it. But in fact, The Cloverfield Paradox feels more like a parody of itself and its namesake than anything else. So here’s to the next Cloverfield film, forced to follow whatever BS this was, and here’s to me, fed up and going home.
The Cloverfield Paradox is available to stream via Netflix.