It has long been the case that if a movie was released with very little marketing and/or no advance screenings for critics then everyone could safely assume that it wasn't going to be very good. A lot of stinkers have been dumped into cinemas this way, making a cash grab before the word starts to spread on just how bad it is. But the times they are a changing, as a popular song will tell you. And that is how so many people ended up spending their time after the recent Super Bowl watching The Cloverfield Paradox. Very few people knew it was being released so soon, and even less expected the trailer from Netflix advertising it as being available to watch right after the game. Well played, Netflix, well played indeed.
Now let's get to the film itself. Tenuously linked to the previous two films, The Cloverfield Paradox shows us an Earth that is limping through a dire energy crisis, which is the perfect time to develop and build a huge space station thingummybob that will head upwards into the stars and fire a big beam down on our planet with probbably no long-lasting negative effects to us or the universe, obviously. The crew are impressively multi-cultural, with Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) being the one we are kept alongside the most, and they take turns at working together and fighting one another when things go wrong and Earth seems to disappear. If they can ever make it back there, and if some strange force will actually let them, becomes the focus of the film, with occasional diversions to show us what is going on back on Earth itself (which you should already be aware of if you've seen the previous two films).
You have a few things working very well here. The cast, for one, are a great mix; as well as Mbatha-Raw, there's Daniel Bruhl, Aksel Hennie, Ziyi Zhang, David Oyelowo, Chris O'Dowd, and more. The production values are good, with some impressive special effects throughout. And fans of the previous movies will enjoy scouring each scene for small connections and references to other events.
Julius Onah directs well enough, showing especially good instincts when it comes to the scares and surprises, which are just a bit too few and far between. One moment features some squirm-inducing eyeball freakery that perked me right up again just as my interest had started to wane.
The biggest problem lies with the script, written by Oren Uziel. Hampered by a lack of logic, even movie-based logic, and possibly also hampered by having to shoehorn in those Cloverfield connections, the script falls completely flat in between the better set-pieces. Worst of all, it undermines the decent acting on display by making most of the characters very hard to care about. There's also no attempt to give us a decent hint at an explanation for certain events. I don't need everything spelled out for me, most people don't, but that doesn't mean a film can just be made up of various moments thrown together with no real idea of the cause and effect. That way lies anarchy and a lack of satisfaction for viewers.
Everything else makes up for the poor script, but only just (and I have already heard from a LOT of people who disagree with me). The weakest of the series so far, I can still see this being a big, even monster, hit for Netflix, thanks to the (lack of) marketing and the curiosity that fans will have. I just hope that whatever we get next is a bit better.
Get the previous two movies here.
Or, in America, get them here.