The Cloverfield Paradox review: Netflix’s surprise sequel gets lost in space

Cloverfield Paradox review: Netflix's surprise sequel gets lost in space
(Picture: Netflix)

Netflix Original Movies aren’t very good. Okay, maybe that’s a sweeping statement, but the streaming giant’s narrative movies have often left something to be desired.

For every Beasts Of No Nation or Okja, there’s a sea of average-to-awful output like War Machine, Bright or any Adam Sandler ‘comedy’.

The Cloverfield Pardox, on the surface at least, is different. In a move that’s typical of both Netflix and the Cloverfield franchise, the untitled third instalment in the Cloverfield Universe had a surprise announcement during the Super Bowl, becoming available on the streaming service two hours after the game.

So is the move empty hype, or genius?

Cloverfield Paradox review: Netflix's surprise sequel gets lost in space
(Picture: Netflix)

Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as Ava, a brilliant scientist living in a world which will soon run out of energy. To save it, she must leave her husband and embark on a mission into space to perfect a particle accelerator that promises unlimited energy. During one of the firings of the generator, however, Ava and her crew find that the Earth has disappeared, and strange things start occurring on the ship.

Despite a credit sequence that feels like a 70’s TV show, the film starts with promising ideas. Like the ship Ava finds herself on, however, things start to fall apart fairly quickly.

Featuring a crew that talk in sentences of very obvious exposition, the plot is a badly translated mix of Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, Alien, Even Horizon and any other spooky spaceship horror.

Layering twist after twist makes the whole proposition preposterous, while sci-fi babble attempts to cover up a plot that doesn’t really know where it’s going. People and things appearing in the walls are never entirely explained, with ‘Paradox’ becoming a byword for anything a bit mysterious.

Cloverfield Paradox review: Netflix's surprise sequel gets lost in space
(Picture: Netflix)

This becomes enormously frustrating for two reasons. Firstly, the films that preceded it were the perfect inspiration for something better. In the original Cloverfield, the ambiguity was where the horror lied. We didn’t know why it was happening, just that it was scary.

Here the ambiguous moments are the scars of bad writing. We know all too well what’s happening, it’s just all too far-fetched.

The second frustration is the incredibly talented cast assembled. David Oyelowo is, on paper, the perfect choice as the captain of the space station, as is Chris O’Dowd as the wise-cracking technician.

Yet, without a good script they’re struggling against the tide; Daniel Bruhl and Zhang Ziyi are equally wasted as a mysterious scientist couple.

Cloverfield Paradox review: Netflix's surprise sequel gets lost in space
(Picture: Netflix)

Jumbled as it may be, the film would be catastrophic without Raw’s emotionally charged performance. Ava’s arc means there’s something more specific at stake rather than the broad sweeping fate of the universe, and the British star puts her all into every moment.

Starting off on a promising note, Cloverfield Paradox gets more and more preposterous until finally collapsing in on itself. If it were a stronger film, this surprise release would have felt like an innovation in cinema. As it is, it feels like a gimmicky way to flog an inferior film.

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