The Cloverfield Paradox

J.J. Abrams needs to stop slapping "Cloverfield" on unrelated properties so indiscriminately. He got away with it with 10 Cloverfield Lane, because that movie was a taut, claustrophobic thriller that worked on its own. With The Cloverfield Paradox, however, Abrams and co. aren't so lucky. The movie, born as God Particle, was irredeemable already. Its manufactured association with Cloverfield -- now revealed more as a cynical advertising stunt than an anthology series -- makes the movie worse and the name Cloverfield toxic.

The Cloverfield Paradox follows an international crew of scientists and engineers in orbit around Earth, attempting to find a new source of energy that will alleviate the energy crisis on the planet below. The movie starts off well enough, with a quiet scene showing how gasoline shortages and power-outs have become part of the daily routine. Sadly, the script abandons Earth quickly to retreat to a space station, where things go wrong in all the predictable, well trodden ways. Then, instead of original ideas, the audience is treated to a hodgepodge of sci-fi horror scenes ripped directly from Event Horizon, Prometheus, and most of all Alien. Yet where Alien worked so effectively because we knew the crew and their personalities and dynamics, Cloverfield Paradox uses a quick-moving montage to summarize two years of seclusion and failure on the Cloverfield space station. We don't see enough of the crew living, laughing, and struggling, so of course we don't care when they're killed off one by one.

I will say the international cast here is pretty great, and they do the best with the shoddy material and inexperienced direction foisted upon them. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is the standout, although even her character — by far the most developed — isn't particularly nuanced. She has a tragic backstory, sure, but a tragedy is not a character trait. Elizabeth Debicki, who shined (literally) in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is also good.

Some of the scares and shocks are also acceptable (even if derivative) in a Cronenberg body-horror type way. Hey, I'm trying to find the positive things!

Let's return to the 800-ton monster in the room. Watching Cloverfield Paradox, it's pretty clear that the original script was unrelated to Cloverfield, and that scenes that reference the name were clumsily added after Abrams' production company Bad Robot got involved. This is especially true of the film's final shot, which is so jarringly, incomprehensibly bad that it ends up being the (unintentionally) funniest part of the whole movie.