So, yesterday (Sunday) afternoon/evening, excitement in the USA was reaching fever pitch. It was the Super Bowl, which means even if you’re not interested in sport, you still get half-time entertainment and perhaps even more thrillingly – trailers for big upcoming ‘event’ movies. Speculation about which trailers we were getting was rife as always. Then came a tweet from director Ava Duvarney saying: “#FilmTwitter is going to explode tonight. Something is coming that I can hardly believe. Lawd. History in the making.” So of course, Twitter then went into overdrive, theorising that maybe Ava was being announced as a new Star Wars director, among other things. Well, it turned out to be a trailer for the new ‘Cloverfield’ movie, which people thought might be coming out in a month or so. However, the end of the trailer stated: “On Netflix after the game.” This was a genius marketing move – suddenly anticipation was in overdrive and everyone was going to stay up late (depending on your time zone) to watch the movie straight after the Super Bowl.
I have huge affection for the original ‘Cloverfield’. I love found-footage/hand-held camera genre films including ‘The Blair Witch Project’, ‘Chronicle’, ‘Trollhunter’ and ‘Monsters’. ‘Cloverfield’ is an extremely good example and follows a group of young people hanging out a party when an enormous alien monster attacks the city. All went quiet in the Cloverfield universe until 2016, when suddenly a new film: ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ was announced and then released a month later. A very different film – a thriller about a woman trying to escape a bunker and her captor and it was only tied to the original film right at the end, when it was clear there had been an alien invasion on earth. Getting even less notice this time meant there was less time to theorise about how this new film would tie to both, however we were promised this would explain the events in the original film.
‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ is almost entirely set in space, on a ship called the Cloverfield. The crew’s mission is to find a new energy source for earth, where it is rapidly running out (there are scenes of power cuts and petrol shortages at the start). The crew is multi-national; there is Brit Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), American Kiel (David Oyelowo), German Schmidt (Daniel Bruhl), Brazilian Monk (John Ortiz), Russian Volkov (Aksel Hennie), Chinese Tam (Zhang Ziyi) and Irish Mundy (Chris O’Dowd). I got quite emosh seeing an Irish flag on the arm of an astronaut, even if it is just science fiction. The international characters and cast is one of the more positive aspects of this film. I really liked the way the crew spoke to Tam in Mandarin, rather than it being presumed that she would just learn English. Tensions on the ship are heightened by the fact that war is brewing on earth, particularly between Schmidt and Volkov. The pressure is very much on the crew for their experiment with the ‘Shepherd’ to succeed, to prevent total chaos on earth.
However, things go wrong when an enormous power surge destroys many of the systems on the ship, including communications with earth. However, on further investigation, it is found that it’s not just that they can’t communicate with earth; in fact the earth has disappeared altogether. More strange things start happening on the ship – screams are heard from inside a wall and there they discover Jensen (Elizabeth Debicki), who has been ‘splinched’ into the pipes and wires embedded into the wall. Jenson knows the whole crew (apart from Tam), but they do not recognise her. A crew member starts to feel unwell, with his eye acting very weirdly and then he has a classic ‘Alien’ moment with things exploding from his body. Another crew member’s arm gets severed in an accident and then starts moving and communicating independently. All of these odd and humorous incidents are the main strengths of this film. It gradually dawns on these scientists that they have moved to another dimension and they set about trying to get back to their own.
The final third of this film is when things start to fall apart. The film becomes quite boring and predictable and much of the odd humour gets lost. The way that they try to tie this film to the original ‘Cloverfield’ at the end makes absolutely no sense and will leave fans of the franchise (including me) quite angry. It is a shame because the cast of this film is insanely good – it was a joy to see Ziyi again and Mbatha-Raw and Oyelowo are two of my favourite actors. However, this film did not tie together at all and feels like it has been hooked onto the Cloverfield universe as an afterthought, motivated by marketing.
It was a shame to see the hype to backlash cycle boiled down to just a few short hours on this Super Bowl Sunday. The marketing was ingenious, but the film itself could not live up to the ‘event’. I hope that more thought is put into the next film in this franchise and someone who cares about actually tying a coherent universe together is behind it. A let down for fans of the first two films.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Directed By: Julius Onah
Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris O’Dowd, Ziyi Zhang