The Cloverfield films are a bit strange in that they feel more like feature length Twilight Zone episodes than films. Not that I’m complaining as I really enjoy seeing this kind of anthology format up on the big screen. John Carpenter tried this format and (unfortunately) failed with Halloween III back in 1982. Thankfully these films have been wildly successful, especially the first film which made the found footage genre a hot commodity once again. As long as these films were profitable we would keep getting new stories and I was absolutely thrilled with the prospect.
I was expecting the third film to get a theatrical release, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the teaser trailer for The Cloverfield Paradox show up during Superbowl LII, stating that it would be available to stream on Netflix once the big game ended.
The crew of the space station Cloverfield, after attempting to solve the Earth’s energy crisis by experimenting with a particle accelerator in orbit, unleash the horrors of a parallel reality upon themselves and the planet below.
I’m a huge fan of this franchise. I felt the first film was a clever and thrilling take on a Godzilla movie. The second film was a fallout bunker bound potboiler that really worked for me. Where would a third movie go? Outer space… where film franchises go to die. And boy, does this flick ever follow suit as it’s one of worst sequels I‘ve seen in a looooooong time.
The first is that the film starts off on a high note. The energy crisis is set up well enough, as is the Cloverfield station and the problems they have been experiencing in attempting to get their particle accelerator operational. But once the crew crosses over into the parallel reality such stupidly off-the-wall events begin to occur that it’s hard to give a crap about the plot or the characters anymore. It’s as if the writers just decided to have random things happen to the crew that make no sense and have no set-up to build suspense. The explanation given for said random events is just a blanket excuse to allow for all kinds of dumb crap to occur – the parallel reality.
A good example of the parallel reality side effects is that a character in the new reality never worked on the station, where in the original one where we started they did. I can buy that. But the laws of physics going completely haywire? People phasing through walls? Metal sealant becoming sentient and grabbing people? Severed limbs remaining active and writing out tips on how to save the world? What in the fucking fuck?! I can suspend disbelief only so far.
Writers Oren Uziel (22 Jump Street) and Doug Jung (Star Trek Beyond) set-up no rules for this new reality except for the aforementioned blanket explanation that felt like an afterthought at the top of the film (awkwardly delivered by Donal Logue in a television broadcast) so that the audience can be thrilled by pseudo creative use of CGI and lots of Dutch angles. Sorry, no. It’s lazy to just expect us to accept all the weirdness going on without some sort of reference point. Being weird for the sake of being weird is a hard pill to swallow when you are unable to make heads or tails of what’s going on or why.
The second issue I have with this flick is the absolute epic fail in trying to tie Cloverfield, 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Cloverfield Paradox together. The only Earthbound character we follow is Roger Davies’ Michael who is exposed to all the awkward franchise tie-ins. There’s an explosion near his house that he actually goes to investigate and there’s a shadow of a big monster looming above the building. Umm, ok? Once there he basically abducts a young girl whose parents were killed in the explosion and brings her to a random fallout bunker for safety. Umm, ok? And that final shot… gimme a fucking break. It feels thrown into the film for no reason at all. The reality of the situation is that it actually was.
The Cloverfield Paradox was originally a non-Cloverfield film titled God Particle. Like those Hellraiser sequels from the late 90s and early 2000s, it was an unrelated film that was heavily modified after the fact to fit into the mythos of another franchise. In the case of the Hellraiser sequels it was a number of scripts owned by Dimension Films that were doctored to include Pinhead and the Puzzle Box. The end results felt schizophrenic in the extreme. In the case of God Particle the film was completed, then the decision was made to absorb it into the Cloverfield franchise so a bunch of hastily written scenes (all the scenes with Roger Davies) were produced to tie it into the series. None of these scenes work and feel like such backhanded fan service that they are straight up insulting. It is so bad in its execution that it has actually tainted the films that have come before it in my eyes.There’s a decent cast of familiar faces who try their hardest to sell the garbage floating past them at every turn. You have David Oyelowo (Selma), Daniel Brühl (Captain America: Civil War), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Concussion), John Ortiz (Fast & Furious), Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd), Ziyi Zhang (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2) and Donal Logue (Gotham) who are all established and talented actors slumming it in this mess of a flick. Only Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character of Hamilton gets any kind of character development while the rest are basically dog meat awaiting the grinder. I mean that literally. This film turns into a run of the mill slasher flick, with the station itself being the hockey masked killer and these grown ass adults devolve into idiotic teenagers that just want to explore every dark corridor alone after being told not to split up. Ugh.
Sure the special effects are cool, I liked the cast and the set-up is pretty good. It just sucks that everything else about this flick is so godawful. The end result is a mash up of Sunshine, Event Horizon and one of the lesser Final Destination movies. I have a sneaking suspicion that the reason this became a Cloverfield movie was because God Particle was considered to be so bad that in order to recoup the budget the producers decided to merge it into an established franchise to break even. But then again, this went direct-to-Netflix and skipped a theatrical release altogether. Maybe they didn’t have confidence in their Frankensteined movie after all. All I know is that I was not entertained and was angry once the end credits rolled.
Sad thing is there is a fourth movie that has already completed principal photography. It pains me to say that I am not looking forward to it.
0.5 out of 5