The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) Review

Most films are released, perhaps others…escape? “The Cloverfield Paradox” feels more like it was abandoned until Bad Robot found it in a dumpster. But even their judicious application of Cloverfield-brand sticky plasters couldn’t paper over this many cracks and, eventually, it was offloaded in a fire sale to Netflix. Credit to them, then, to realise that if you’ve got a bomb on your hands, the only thing to do is to make sure it goes off with a bang.

The year is 2028 and Earth is suffering from an energy crisis which has brought the governments of the world to the brink of war. Hope rests in the Cloverfield station orbiting earth where an international science mission is trying to perfect the Shepard particle accelerator, a device which may be able to provide Earth with infinite energy. After two years of unsuccessful experiments, the accelerator finally achieves a stable beam and begins to show an energy surplus. However, success is short-lived when the reaction accelerates out of control and the system overloads, shutting down the station. When power is restored, the crew are astonished to find that the Earth has vanished and vital components have likewise disappeared. Then, things start to get really weird…

It’s not difficult to see what attracted J J Abrams and his Bad Robots to this movie. It’s super-successful at posing many more questions that it knows how to coherently and satisfyingly answer. It’s “Lost” all over again but, you know, in space. It’s an impossible task to assess what remains of the original “God Particle” film but it seems deeply unfair to its original ambitions that the only way to evaluate it is the horrific, bastardised clusterfuck of sci-fi horror clichés that’s been presented here. It’s quite astonishing how ineptly this has been put together. It’s a Frankenstein of a movie and every single stitch is visible. The narrative surgical staples stand out so much the characters end up tripping over them. The real paradox is how anybody could have believed this film was fit to be released.

The calibre of the cast assembled here is quite something but they seem to be under the impression they’ve been assembled for different movies. It starts strongly, albeit with some clumsy but necessary exposition and the build-up to the initial experiments and the aftermath provide some smart, tense sci-fi horror, evoking some Cronenbergian body horror and the eldritch otherworld tension of “Event Horizon” but just as it promises the most, it all goes horribly, horribly wrong in a metatextual structural echo of the reactor McGuffin in the movie. Weird stuff starts happening but there’s never a reason provided apart from vague allusions to other dimensions. Character behaviour and decisions are arbitrary and reckless at best, but often just downright stupid. Their docile reaction to various events which increasingly defy the laws of physics and/ or common sense push the horror into farce, which at least Chris O’Dowd as he seems to think he’s in some kind of Judd Apatow-esque sci-fi comedy while the others seem in an undue hurry to get to the point where their character is killed off and they can mercifully be released from the film.

The “Cloverfield” connections are forced, ill-conceived and clumsy, making this already clunky narrative downright shambolic. The effects work is decent enough, at least, but ultimately, this botched experiment demeans everyone involved with it and may inflict lasting damage on the “Cloverfield” brand. I have a friend who has a pet theory that when they upgraded the Large Hadron Collider and switched it on again in 2015, it shunted our world into a parallel universe where everything was just so much worse and that’s why we’ve seen the global turn of events that we have. Get a couple of glasses of red wine in her and she’ll outline a much better movie than this dross. Unfortunately, I plan to use all the red wine I can find to try and erase this movie from my memory.

Netflix was smart, they did the best thing they could do with something this terrible: they made it about the release, not the content. The same trick isn’t likely to work as well the next time.