Anyone who’s read my blog from the beginning will know that I love the first Cloverfield. I also loved 10 Cloverfield Lane despite it not being what I expected. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when The Cloverfield Paradox appeared on Netflix last February, I was ecstatic. While it may lack the well-written characters of the previous two films, The Cloverfield Paradox provides a compelling plot in a mysterious and eerie world similar in fashion to its predecessors.
This third instalment in what is now an anthology series centres around the crew of a space station working on a particle accelerator. They hope that the machine will create new energy as the world below is tearing itself apart for resources. Following a test of the accelerator, the crew suddenly finds that the Earth is gone. The station has been teleported to some unknown area of space. As they try to find a way to return home, reality begins to shift and distort, making everything unclear and uncertain.
The Setting, Plot and Horror
The Cloverfield Paradox has a vibe similar to that of 10 Cloverfield Lane in that its story concerns a worldwide struggle yet it is depicted only through the eyes of a few characters in small, isolated settings. In The Cloverfield Paradox the main setting is of course the space station but we occasionally go down to Earth with Michael, the husband of one of the scientists, where most of his scenes are restricted to just his home. These grounded settings create tension as while we see how international catastrophes affects the main characters, we never see or are made certain of the disasters themselves, especially the ones that occur in the film.
Even though the main setting (the space station) is restrictive, The Cloverfield Paradox still manages to provide a compelling plot teeming with sci-fi ideas. With the premise concerning particle accelerators, space time and other universes, the film feels like a big budget episode of Doctor Who or The Twilight Zone. After the crew find themselves in the middle of nowhere, strange and bizarre incidents occur on the station. This is where the film’s horror comes from as the incidents are intense, even physically graphic at times, reminiscent of the horror films directed by David Cronenberg.
As well as being scary, they also, avoiding spoilers, acknowledge the first two films in a clever and believable fashion.
With the restricted setting, creative plot and intense horror, The Cloverfield Paradox presents a mysterious and uneasy atmosphere similar to those in the original and 10 Cloverfield Lane.
Ava, Michael’s wife, is the protagonist of the film. We learn in a few intimate scenes between her and Michael that they lost two children to a house fire. Throughout the film we are reminded of Ava’s unbearable grief as she watches home movies of her kids on numerous occasions. However, despite her outlandish position, once again avoiding spoilers, her grief is actually challenged in the plot. She’s very empathetic and the best character in the film.
The other characters however are not as compelling or empathetic. This is The Cloverfield Paradox’s great weakness in my view. The supporting cast consist of well-known character archetypes that we’re all aware of and have seen before. Kiel is the tough, manly captain, Schmidt is the cynical, blunt scientist and Mundy (played by Chris O’Dowd of IT Crowd fame) is the charming, sarcastic comic relief. None of them are as compelling as Ava. They’re well written for what they are but in the first act a lot of time is spent establishing their personalities and showing them interacting with each other. The film seems to think that they’re more interesting than they actually are because these scenes get boring quite quickly.
Despite the boring archetypal characters however, The Cloverfield Paradox is a pretty decent sci-fi thriller with a very empathetic protagonist, atmospheric and visual horror, great executions of original ideas and an engaging story. It’s nothing ground-breaking and certainly not as brilliant as the first two but if you’re a Cloverfield fan or into sci-fi, I definitely recommend it.
I give The Cloverfield Paradox a solid 7 out of 10.