Surprise! “The Cloverfield Paradox” is a letdown

(Netflix)

Since 2007, J.J. Abrams and his production team at Bad Robot have made it their mission to make the marketing campaigns for the “Cloverfield” series of films as intriguing as possible.

From the MySpace pages created for all of the main characters of the original film, to the hushed production of its sequel, “10 Cloverfield Lane,” the buildups to the movies have been almost as enjoyable to watch unfold as the films themselves.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case with the franchise’s latest entry.

“The Cloverfield Paradox” was initially announced as “God Particle” in 2012, and after several delays, was released on Netflix immediately after Super Bowl LII last Sunday.

The film follows the diverse international crew of the Cloverfield, a space station equipped with a particle accelerator – dubbed The Shepard – which was launched in an attempt to solve Earth’s energy crisis. As the world is on the brink of war, the crew tests The Shepard. Something goes wrong and the dimension the motley crew inhabits begins to occupy the same space as one much darker.

It’s a solid premise. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much of anything interesting or original.

The film was directed by Julius Onah, a relatively unknown Nigerian-born filmmaker, and stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw (best known for her role in the “San Junipero” episode of “Black Mirror”) as Hamilton and David Oyelowo as Keil.

Onah’s directorial vision is strong and Mbatha-Raw and Oyelowo give solid performances. It’s refreshing to see a big-budget Hollywood film spearheaded by a set of talented people of color, but ultimately, this isn’t enough to save the film.

To say “The Cloverfield Paradox” wears its influences on its sleeves is an understatement. It’s practically wearing an “Alien” T-shirt with “The Thing” boxers.

One scene in particular is practically a shot-for-shot remake of the chestburster scene from Ridley Scott’s classic.

In addition to the film’s inability to present original or compelling plot points, its tone is often inconsistent, most jarringly with the character, Mundy – played by Irish comic actor Chris O’Dowd.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with comic relief in a movie like this. In some films – such as last year’s brilliant “Get Out” – they make sure the dark tone of a movie doesn’t go too far. However, the film never gets dark enough to warrant a character like Mundy, and most of the time, his wisecracks are poorly timed, often immediately after traumatic events.

And what’s more, they’re just not funny.

“The Cloverfield Paradox” promised answers to such burning questions as “what caused the events of ‘Cloverfield’ and ’10 Cloverfield Lane?'” While the film delivered on this promise, what it delivered more of was obnoxious fanservice.

Sure, the little nod to the omnipresent “Slusho!” was cute, but the news interview of a man predicting that The Shepard would “rip open the membrane of spacetime” and welcome “monsters, demons, beasts from the sea” was a bit too on the nose.

Another installment of the “Cloverfield” franchise was announced just days before the release of “The Cloverfield Paradox,” currently titled “Overlord.” It’s scheduled for a release later this year.

The third time wasn’t a charm. Let’s just hope the fourth is.

 

Rating: C-   A strong cast and great performances aren’t enough to save this unoriginal “Cloverfield” sequel.

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