The science fiction genre is often seen as the origin of some of the most influential and famous movies of all time: Star Wars, Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey, just to name a few. All of them turn to the stars for stories that, otherwise, would seem foolish to imagine.
However, Netflix’s latest surprise venture, The Cloverfield Paradox, elevates the once shaky camera footage of the original movie into a fully-fledged sci-fi thriller.
The Cloverfield Paradox follows a team onboard a space shuttle which is trying to find a way of sending unlimited power to a dying Earth. However, the device malfunctions, sending the crew into an alternate reality and wreaking havoc upon Earth.
The Cloverfield franchise has always had a well-maintained air of secrecy surrounding it. The last film, 10 Cloverfield Lane, was shot with a different name, and the first film was announced with an untitled trailer. This secrecy often added to the mystery of the film itself – at this point, I’m still not sure what is even going on.
This instalment, however, finds itself at a precipice. It is teetering on the edge of being too well known to be a secret anymore. If anything, the secret was out then that Godzilla-esque being was unleashed upon a camera-toting Earth.
With this in mind, the story of The Cloverfield Paradox is wildly predictable. There are some scenes that I am genuinely convinced they just stole from other movies, tweaked them by a fraction, and then just churned out as new sci-fi fodder. For a movie franchise that prides themselves on the surprise factor, this film was overwhelmingly unsurprising.
Obviously, this movie isn’t going to be a total flop. Yes, it’s predictable, but it is also entertaining, funny and touching. Some parts are plain weird: Chris O’Dowd losing his arm after getting it sucked into a wall, only to find his arm dragging itself down a corridor 10 minutes later was an unusual scene, to say the least. There are also scenes so heartbreaking, and so well acted (usually in the case of Gugu Mbatha-Raw) that your entire insides shrivel up into a heap of sadness.
Speaking of Gugu, she took this film by the hand and led it. She brought heart, tension and an overwhelming sense of control to a film that may have otherwise been too lost in the stars. Her role wasn’t just as a feisty, courageous female, but as a mechanism to keep the film on the ground.
To be honest, all of the actors pulled their weight. O’Dowd was the comic relief that was desperately needed, Oyelowo was the leading man that most definitely led, and Daniel Bruhl was the shifty German who spent a lot of the time shouting at people or looking distressed. All in all, the movie is a pretty good representation of a stereotypical sci-fi thriller.
Some things did fall flat, however. Elizabeth Debicki’s mysterious Jensen was an obvious villain, even when she was meant to be being nice. Whether or not this was Debicki’s fault, or how the character was written, it didn’t help that Jensen herself was never a likeable character. In addition to this and the storyline being a rehashing of sci-fi tropes, none of the characters develop or grow, staying as flat as cardboard throughout the entire film. In a film that puts extreme amounts of stress on the characters, a bit of emotion that lasts longer than 10 seconds would have been welcome.
Overall, The Cloverfield Paradox does what it says on the tin. The Cloverfield calling-card predicts a science fiction movie, complete with giant dinosaur monsters, and that’s what you get. It’s just in space this time.