Yesterday was a great day for movie fans everywhere, particularly fans of the Cloverfield film series (as I am undoubtedly am) and of J.J. Abrams and everything he touches that seems to turn to gold. It was lunch time in Australia when the big announcement and trailer from the Super Bowl in the U.S.A announced the The Cloverfield Paradox would be dropping on Netflix as soon as the game was over. Due to my already arranged evening of a preview screening of Insidious : The Last Key (review coming soon!) I had to wait till 8:30pm to watch this film in the comfort of my own lounge room on the streaming service that I love. It could not have been more perfect. The film is a wildly different installment in the multiverse (I guess we can call it that now!) offering a lot of answers to previously asked questions and it wouldn’t be a Cloverfield movie without raising more questions and not offering any answers.
The world is in a global energy crisis and on the brink of war, an orbiting space station is created to conduct research into a particle accelerator that could solve the problem and stop a worldwide war. The crew have been testing and trying this for years and after a breakthrough shows some sign of progression the crew and ship are thrown into an alternate dimension where matter has a mind of its own. The ship’s captain Ava Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) faces a tough decision when they discover a mysterious stranger aboard the ship, Jensen (Elizabeth Debicki) is marooned on the ship after the events of the jump and the crew must decide if there is more to her than meets the eye. A standout pick of the cast is definitely the character of Mundy played by Chris O’Dowd and is probably the most serious role he has played to date. That being said he does provide the majority of the humour and comedic relief in this movie and is very good as acting as an audience member for questioning the WTF moments that occur during the film. Debicki comes into the film just before the halfway point and injects some much needed urgency and action as the film seems to slow a little. She is fantastic in this role and her interaction with Mbatha-Raw is a great on screen dynamic.
This film tells an incredible story and does so in a well placed run time of just under two hours. There are some great easter eggs to other Bad Robot films (Super 8, Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane) and a few in particular that will surprise you and helps plant this film in its own time and place in the multiverse. The previous films have a history of leaving a lot of things unsaid and relying on setting and visuals for explanation and this film does the same thing. That being said some of the visual effects leave a lot to be desired, sequences of the space shuttle orbiting came across as very cheap CGI, especially in comparison to films like Gravity. Although the budget is on a completely different and reduced level, there were a few parts where characters are looking out into space and it just looked awful, CW superhero Tv budget awful. This is also contrasted in parts of the movie where the effects were amazing and well utilised creating a cohesive and believable world.
If you are looking for a complete and intense explanation of the Cloverfield events, monsters and universe you will not find it here. The film is anything but unapologetic about this and while offering up a morsel of this is how they could have came to be, it doesn’t directly address or confirm it allowing for future filmmakers to continue to interpret this universe in a fresh perspective. The great thing about this film is I had so many questions and came up with my own answers that I then compared with my partner who had different questions and different answers to myself. This is the beauty of this series, it could easily take the lazy route and give an explanation that could cause a Lost style backlash, instead we are allowed as individuals to interpret and explain them in our own unique way. This is what I love about these films and what I equally love about J.J. Abrams. Putting this film straight to Netflix is an absolutely genius move and I can’t wait to watch it again to pick up on more morsels of Cloverfield goodness.
The Cloverfield Paradox is screening internationally on Netflix now.
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Review by Alaisdair Leith