I remember tumbling down the rabbit hole that was the brilliant viral marketing campaign for the first Cloverfield film. The first trailer played with the first Transformers way back in early July of 2007, and I’ll never forget first seeing the trailer for the movie that was then simply titled 01-18-08 downloaded as a shitty pixelated bootleg not even fit for YouTube. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. What was it? We all remember the rumors. Could it be a new Godzilla film? Perhaps it was early marketing for the Transformers sequel? Remember the whole “It’s a lion! It’s huge!” misunderstanding that pointed at it being a live-action Voltron movie? It drove me insane, and I’d spend countless hours investigating fake MySpace accounts, screenshots from the trailers, and arguing with other people on fan forums about what was going to happen when the movie hit theaters. I even remember going to the panel at SDCC in 2007 and getting the first teaser poster. I’ll never forget hearing J.J. Abrams tell the crowd about the film’s origins. I’m paraphrasing here, but he said something similar to “I was in Japan with my family and I was surrounded by all of this Godzilla merchandise and it dawned on me…America needs its own monster. I mean, King Kong is cute and all, but we need our own Godzilla!” That had me 100% on board. I believed this was going to be something special.
“…ends up being just another cool, albeit shallow marketing experiment.”
I was completely let down when I left the theater. All those hours scouring the Internet for clues conjured into my brain a far better film than the one I had just experienced. The Cloverfield franchise has its strengths and uniqueness rooted in its brilliant viral marketing campaign, and The Cloverfield Paradox is absolutely no different. We all lost our minds when we saw the first footage of the long-rumored second Cloverfield sequel on Super Bowl Sunday, and we all freaked out when we learned it would be available on Netflix seconds after the game ended. I’m not much of a sports fan, so I waited with anticipation for the game to end. I adored 2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane so much, John Goodman put on a master class in epic creepiness and Director Dan Trachtenberg crafted a tense and terrifyingly claustrophobic setting that worked spectacularly in so many ways. I was pumped for a sequel despite being let down by the original, and I couldn’t wait.
This movie is pretty fucking terrible. Like the first film, The Cloverfield Paradox ends up being just another cool, albeit shallow marketing experiment. It has a great cast that was squandered by a terribly derivative sci-fi clichés and embarrassing connections to the Cloverfield universe loosely shoehorned in. The story goes that the world is running out of energy, and all of the major countries are on the brink of war. In a last-ditch effort to re-energize the planet, a group of international astronauts try and fire off a device that will fix everything. We have Russian hothead Volkov (played by Aksel Hennie), Irish funnyman Mundy (Chris O’Dowd), German physicist Schmidt (Daniel Brühl), fearless leader Commander Kiel (David Oyelowo), and our lead character Hamilton (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw). There are other characters, but in the grand scheme of things, they don’t really matter much. The characters I mentioned above hardly even matter, except for maybe one or two of them. Hamilton is the focus here, and her story takes place in space, but every once in awhile we’re taken back to earth to see what her husband, Michael (played by Roger Davies), is up to.
“…easily the worst of the Cloverfield flicks so far.”
Inevitably, things go wrong, and if you’ve watched Alien, The Thing, and especially Event Horizon, you’ve seen way better movies that do what this movie tries to do a million times better. Let me be clear here, the problem isn’t with the cast; it’s with the muddled story. It’s a pretty interesting concept, sure. Unfortunately, it just devolves into so many “homages” into far superior science fiction movies that it becomes boring. One thing I will give the film credit for though, the character of Jensen (played by Elizabeth Debicki) has one of the coolest, eeriest, and most horrifying introductions I’ve ever seen. This is the highlight of the film, and after that everything else immediately goes downhill from there. There are some really weak attempts to connect this to the broader Cloverfield world, and the ending is so clunky and ridiculously poorly executed that I wanted to walk out and demand my damned money back, but then I remembered I watched it on a streaming service. It’s obvious why this movie premiered on Netflix. I’m willing to bet money that it didn’t test well, and Paramount had no idea what to do with it. It’s too confusing for casual filmgoers to enjoy and too stupid for film snobs to overanalyze and pick apart. It’s not a good movie, and I’d even go as far as saying that it’s easily the worst of the Cloverfield flicks so far. Don’t get caught up in the marketing hype, there are better things to watch.
The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) Directed by Julius Onah. Written by Oren Uziel and Doug Jung. Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daniel Brühl, Chris O’Dowd, Elizabeth Debicki, Roger Davies, Ziyi Zhang
6 out of 10