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Review: 'The Cloverfield Paradox'

When a group of scientists test a device to solve an energy crisis, they end up facing a dark alternate reality.

I think enough of you are aware of my love for the Cloverfield franchise. The excitement and intrigue going around at the start of 2008 for this film was positively unprecedented. They created the perfect way of presenting a trailer. It explained very little and got plenty of bums on seats.

The first film was a pretty spectacular experience and made great use of the found footage concept. I still remember getting minor motion sickness during one particular scene on top of a building. That still did not detract my overall enjoyment of this gripping sci-fi thriller.

The next installment of 10 Cloverfield Lane was more of the same. A great trailer, with many tense moments and yet showed very little on what the story is about. It ended being a pretty tense and fun feature with an exceptional performance by John Goodman.

Now we have a third part, and it continues to break ground in the way of marketing a film release. Not only did they tell very little about this film in the build-up, they released the film one day after showing us the first trailer during the Super Bowl.

While that got me and many others excited, finding out that this is a Netflix release gave me concerns. Apart from a few exceptions, including the brilliant Beasts Of No Nation, major Netflix original feature film releases have not a critical success. That being said, it's a Cloverfield film. I was stoked.

Now that I've seen it, I can totally see why it was put onto Netflix. There is plenty to get out of it. But it seems that it never had one clear story that it wanted to tell.

It starts with an interesting premise, and I was impressed at the ensemble cast that I was seeing. The more obscure it went, the more interested I was, despite not everything making sense from a story-telling point of view. The closer we got to the finale, the more I could see the Cloverfield tie-ins that the trailers were promising.

However, the very final scene had me confused and kind of expecting it. It was the moment that reminded of the ending to 10 Cloverfield Lane, i.e. they found a mediocre film and then did some re-shoots to make it a Cloverfield film. But after my initial reaction, I have a theory that can defend what I saw on screen, and now I feel more at ease. I don't think it was helped by the CGI being noticeably sub-standard either.

As I said before, the cast was pretty strong in its depth and the performances were pretty solid on the whole, as well. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is the central character and she continues to show that she is a highly talented actor. She carried the film well and had many good moments to shine on screen.

The standouts from the supporting cast were Chris O'Dowd, who did his usual shtick that gave the film enough soft comedic relief. While David Oyelowo and Daniel Bruhl did nothing spectacular, their presence, I think, was necessary to give it some credentials.

Elizabeth Debicki was a nice addition and did some good stuff, particularly in the second half, and it was great seeing Ziyi Zhang again. Most of you will know her from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, House Of Flying Daggers, or even Rush Hour 2. The last time I saw her was probably in The Grandmaster back in 2014.

The production design was pretty good. Outside of the very final scene, the CGI looked good. It mixed in well with the impressive, practical sets.

The score in Cloverfield films are usually all right and go out on a high with a brilliant end credits suite. This one is no different like the others. I will listen to the end credits suite form some time.

Once seeing it, I think you will find big similarities with Life, Interstellar, and various sci-fi TV series. With Life being mentioned, you will notice a lot of tropes you get with many sci-fi horrors. I didn't mind them as they did not make feel it generic.

To summarize, this franchise, in some ways, continues to show films that are totally different each time in terms of its genre, tone, and presentation. The marketing is once again right on the money, and I love how different they are every time.

However in terms of quality, this was probably the lowest. It's most certainly the weakest of the three, and that is mainly to do with the writing and flawed story. But there is plenty of content to keep you interested throughout. It has a breakneck pace, which adds to the excitement, the performances are solid and the imagination and mythology it has is interesting to see being used and explored.

I think the biggest problem people will have with it is that it seemed unclear with its message. You can see a whole bunch of things it's trying to say, but it does not have one clear course that it's to keep on track with.

As a standalone film, it's a perfectly functional sci-fi thriller with enough excitement in its set-pieces and interesting ideas to be passable viewing. But as a Cloverfield film that was being marketed to bridge the gap between the previous two, it manages to confuse you even more. I think, like 10 Cloverfield Lane, it was not intentionally being made as a Cloverfield film. But it got picked up by the right people and made a few alterations to try and make it tie in with the franchise.

There will be many fan theories to support or hinder this franchise, and it will be interesting where they go with this in the next installment. I was not disappointed with the film, and yet at the same time, I did not feel satisfied.

It has plenty of problems, but all of them are honorable in terms of what they were exploring.

Rating: 7/10

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