The Cloverfield Paradox was released out of nowhere on Netflix on the 4th of February to the surprise of many. Helmed by Nigerian-American director Julius Onah and starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo and Daniel Brühl, the film centres on a crew aboard a space station tasked with operating a particle accelerator to try and harness the power of renewable energy. This is all I will say regarding the plot, in order to avoid spoiling any key points of the film. To be blunt, I don’t think that The Cloverfield Paradox is a very good film, which is disappointing because I’m a fan of the semi-connected franchise. That isn’t to say the film is outright awful, its moderately good at best but has its fair share of issues.
Where The Cloverfield Paradox shines is through the production and set design – this is brilliant throughout and builds a tense and claustrophobic atmosphere across the film. Alongside this, the special effects used are quite impressive for a Netflix title, particularly in some surprisingly brutal scenes. I have to wonder though if the film would look as good if it had a wide theatrical release. As far as the cast goes, it’s very refreshing to have the main roles filled by people of colour, with a fairly diverse cast overall. There are some all-around good performances by the main cast members despite the questionable writing and dialogue, but they do their best with what they have been given. The cinematography is consistently solid throughout with tight camerawork, good lighting, and some very good-looking shots, working well apart from the overuse in some instances of disorientating Dutch angles. Oh, and the final shot is amazing.
Unfortunately, the film is saturated with flaws that blur Onah’s otherwise competent direction. The writing is very poor, and a lot of the plot is either reminiscent of other, better films; it is so predictable that you may as well be watching something else, and if you didn’t predict everything then the ridiculous amount of exposition will spell every single detail out for you. The few good performances are dragged down by this and most of the crew are plain unlikable. This, coupled with very irritating dialogue and out of place humour is annoying – I feel that the cast deserved better and the sets could have been used better elsewhere. Also, this latest instalment has been marketed to show how the other films in the franchise connect, and it does answer some questions, but raises so many more. This is pretty frustrating and feels like a justification for more Clover-films in the future, the fourth titled Overlord is rumoured to be released later this year. Hopefully that won’t be as much of a let-down.
Overall, there are some enjoyable aspects and it’s worth checking out for sci-fi fans, but it leaves much to be desired. What was for the most part an anxiety-inducing sci-fi thriller was bogged down by flat performances and an all too predictable seen-it-before-plot.