Messy Ambition: Our Review of ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’

Messy Ambition: Our Review of ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’

Bold moves can very often be misinterpreted…

In a first, debuting after the Super Bowl, what many people were anticipating as a theatrical release later this year, The Cloverfield Paradox debuted on the Netflix streaming service in a shocking move that actually plays in its favor as this is some high concept science-fiction that would have died at the box office but allows for it’s often messy but fascinating layers to play out better on a smaller platform.

The world is on the brink, resources are running low and countries are lining up for war in an effort to survive.  However hope rests on the members of the Cloverfield Space Station orbiting high above the earth for testing of the Shepard Particle Accelerator which could in theory provide an infinity source of energy for everyone on the planet.  However pundits fear it could create The Cloverfield Paradox which could open up a gateway to alternate dimensions and whatever unspeakable horrors lie in them.  After nearly two years of testing, they successfully fire the Shepard…or so they thought, because now they can’t find the earth and things are starting to get a little strange on the space station.

Yeah, it’s a mess…but it’s certainly not one without some merit as it does try to draw a threw line to the other Cloverfield efforts and present some pretty upscale concepts that get lost due to some substandard editing and missed directorial cues.

We’ll be the first to grant that any science fiction that doesn’t start in Star and end in Wars or Trek is one hell of a hard sell, but director Julius Onah is saddled with an awkward pacing from minute one that really doesn’t invite anyone from outside the series to jump in.  It looks fine and the narrative moves at a pace that is actually a little too frenetic as this film actually needed more narrative and setup in order for us to really buy into everything that was going.  It’s almost a little too subtle at times and it doesn’t take much to get a little lost.  The script from Oren Uziel isn’t without some potential but does feel like it had been hacked at in order to make a specific running time which is odd given that it was on Netflix and could have been as long as it damn well please.  Together Onah and Uziel give us something fairly messy, but still fairly compelling to the most fervent of science-fiction fan boys it just leaned a little too hard to Andrei Tartovsky territory when it felt like it should have been a little more populist and accessible.

Filled with a surprisingly strong crew of character actors lead by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, you can easily tell that the entire ensemble is doing everything in their power to try and elevate the material as best as they can.  There’s something legitimate on the table here, but it’s one you really have to go digging for as some of these characters are actually a little superfluous, only sticking around to have somewhat of a spectacular death.  Mbatha-Raw actually has an emotional arc that she has to go through and it ties in nicely to the main crux of the narrative, but it would have been nice to see any of the other players be invested in all the proceedings as she was.

Science-Fiction junkies will get just enough out of The Cloverfield Paradox to get interested by it and get our imaginations running for the next installments, but you can’t help but feel like something a little more high minded and ambitious is bouncing around in all this material.  It’s just another piece of the Cloverfield puzzle but now audiences are actually looking for answers rather than the myriad of questions that these films are bringing forward.

This post was written by
David Voigt, has been a lover of cinema all his life and an actual underpaid critic for a solid 5 years covering everything that the city of Toronto has to offer. He was a content manager in video distribution industry before that and his love of all things cinema goes back to his first moments in awe looking up at the big screen. His 12 years of experience on the home entertainment side of the business have provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, David should be your only stop to find out about the best in film, not only in Toronto, but worldwide.