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‘The Cloverfield Paradox’, A Familiar Sci-Fi Adventure

It’s been exactly 10 years since Cloverfield hit theaters. The mysterious monster movie captivated audiences for its minimal information prior to release, and its (at the time) unique found-footage style of filming. It would be another eight years before fans got a follow-up with 10 Cloverfield Lane. While not a direct sequel and more of a “sister film”, the movie came out of nowhere, releasing a trailer only a couple of months before release. It was well received by fans, despite not entirely playing off the events of the first film.

Rumors of a third film didn’t take long to begin circulating. With the last month or so finding whispers that the film might be dropped on Netflix instead of a theatrical release. Then, during last nights Super Bowl, a trailer played confirming the film would be released on Netflix, but more surprising, it would be released immediately after the game. So fans stayed up extra late to watch the next chapter in this exciting J. J. Abrams world. A space adventure of sorts, The Cloverfield Paradox certainly fits into the Clover-verse, but it’s a matter of how well.

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When Earth faces an energy crisis, a team of scientists from around the world join one another aboard the Shepard particle accelerator, testing a new source of energy supply in the safety of space. The project seems controversial to some, with one man writing a book on the “Cloverfield Paradox”, claiming this project would open up other dimensions and rip through our world, exposing it to monsters and demons.

After two years onboard the Shepard, the crew finally finds success with the accelerator, but not without causing damage to their station and causing a power surge. Once getting things slightly back in order, the crew realizes something is not right. For one, they’ve lost communication with Earth, and seemingly lost their location near it. Additionally, a random crew member is found aboard that no one knows and they slowly come to terms that they may no longer be in their dimension.

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Fans of the Cloverfield concept were undoubtedly excited for this next installment. When news broke of an impending release, and recent activity on the various Clover-centric marketing websites, it was a bit of a letdown to hear the possibility of the film being released on a streaming platform. While Netflix is better known now for its well-made originals, something about a large scale film like this belongs in a theatre setting.

With my personal dislike of that aside, it was exciting to sit down and tune into the film so quickly after being essentially smacked in the face with its release. There was no time to prep yourself and contemplate what happened in the trailer. As the film began, you could tell it would beautifully match the other two visually, even seeing a couple easter eggs – Slusho! anyone? However, I immediately had this sense of familiarity to Aliens. Whether that was an intentional tribute or not, it felt less original than the other two. It was a bit too much of a generic space adventure, but you felt drawn into that Cloverfield aspect. If you striped any connection to Abrams monster, I feel you wouldn’t be nearly as forgiving.

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This film boasts an impressive ensemble cast of well-knowns, led by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who viewers will recognize from the Black Mirror episode “San Junipero”. The rest of the team made up of Daniel BrühlAksel HennieJohn OrtizDavid OyelowoZhang Ziyi and Chris O’Dowd, who provides the comic relief for the film, sometimes too much. Many of which fit some sort of character tropes that’s a bit obnoxious at times.

While they were all fantastic in their respective roles, it was far too cliché for some, and underdeveloped for others, to have you personally feel connected in any way to them. Which might be the downside to having such a large cast, and possibly a script that wasn’t meant to fit the Clover-verse into it.

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I’ll be honest, I was one of those people back in late 2007 who was scouring the internet for clues to what 1-18-08 (the working title for Cloverfield) would be about. The viral marketing campaign was unlike anything we had ever seen before and it was so well thought out and exhilarating to decode. I remember an interview where JJ Abrams said he wanted to give New York City it’s own Godzilla. However, it seems since the first film, Abrams lost his desire to continue the story in that way.

Even though I enjoyed 10 Cloverfield Lane, and the switch to a more open anthology series, I’ve felt that larger picture has been lost. It feels as though they’re simply buying out scripts, ones that are completely unrelated, and plugging bits of “Clovie” in there to tie it together. It worked fine with the second film, but this one felt entirely disconnected. While it explains some things, and gives us a bit of reasoning, it felt like a complete afterthought. Truthfully, I wanted more from a film I’ve spent a decade being invested in, waiting for that proper monster-sized sequel with the same passion Abrams had for the first.

The Cloverfield Paradox is now streaming on Netflix

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