After years of delays, rumors and anticipation, Netflix swooped in, said “fuck it,” and dropped The Cloverfield Paradox onto unsuspecting consumers on Super Bowl Sunday, mere days after acquiring the J.J. Abrams-produced “sequel.” The behind-the-scenes turmoil only sort-of shows in the final product, an entertaining, semi-ambitious sci-fi thriller that does a better job of presenting ideas than it does addressing them.
Boasting a surprisingly solid cast that includes Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Bruhl, John Ortiz and Chris O’Dowd, The Cloverfield Paradox is about a group of scientists and astronauts who are trying to solve the problem of perpetual energy on a space station–while Earth descends into chaos as nations compete for dwindling resources. But their experiment, which dabbles with intra-dimensional space-time or something that isn’t quite clear, shit happens.
Directed by Julius Onah, The Cloverfield Paradox wastes no time getting started, introducing us to its cast of characters and the situation at hand in a matter of minutes. The movie overall is fast-paced and at least somewhat exciting, with characters sparring, weird things happening, and things spiraling out of control.
With strong production values and an unpredictable plot, The Cloverfield Paradox at least works at keeping you engaged and guessing, though the story has the tendency to present something new and then refuse to explore that concept in an interesting way. What perhaps is most frustrating is that as unpredictable as the first half is, the second half retreats to tropes we’ve seen before – opting more for human antagonists and science that seems to bend to convenience – rather than doing something more daring and original.
The final scene, while minor in the scheme of things, doesn’t work as intended, another idea underdeveloped.
Nonetheless, The Cloverfield Paradox is entertaining sci-fi – it isn’t groundbreaking, but it has enough going on and operates at such a relentless pace that it’s easy to enjoy. It’s also easy to see missed opportunity; had its climax gone a less conventional route, relying more on the weirdness of the “paradox” than on action, the movie could have been so much more.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.