Sunday, February 4, 2018

Review: Is "Cloverfield Paradox" a unprecedented Super Bowl surprise, or nothing special?

Cloverfield Paradox Review

Something funny happened this Super Bowl Sunday and leave it to J.J. Abrams, the master of surprise, to leave me totally flabbergasted. 

"Cloverfield" was 2008, and if there is one modern movie that had a really good marketing campaign, alongside "The Dark Knight" and "The Blair Witch Project," it was "Cloverfield." No matter what you felt about the first movie, its marketing was excellent. It's trailer was screened in front of "Transformers" in 2007, and it had no title. It left people frantic for what they were going to see. Was it a "Rampage" movie? Another "Godzilla" movie. Hell, I remember one there were somebody thought it was the biblical monsters Behemoth and Ziz. Then there all the pictures on the film's website, and videos that you would find out later had nothing to do with the movie at all. It was shrouded in mystery, but honestly, could you expect anything different from J.J. Abrams?

The movie itself was a fairly ordinary found footage survival monster movie. I thought the young, mostly unknown cast did a good job of making it count, and I know not everyone agrees with that, but I was impressed by what they did with that script. After "Cloverfield" came "10 Cloverfield Lane," which didn't tie into the first movie at all, only by name. But you can tell how the themes of that movie could correlate into the first movie. It was truly a spiritual sequel by every definition of the word. Both movies were solid science fiction films, even if they didn't connect at all.

We knew a third film in this franchise, entitled "God Particle" was coming this year, but we just didn't know it was going to be tonight after the Super Bowl. Well played, Netflix, well played. Netflix bought the film from Paramount because Paramount didn't think they could make much money off of it, and Netflix released it earlier than all of us could guess, but also changing the title from "God Particle" to "Cloverfield Paradox."

It feels with this third film, Paramount, Abrams and everyone else is throwing everything at the audience, including the kitchen sink. "Cloverfield Paradox" is full of recognizable faces, there is Gugu Mbatha-Raw from "Doctor Who, Chris O'Dowd from "Bridesmaids," Daniel Bruhl from "inglorious Basterds and Captain America: Civil War," David Oyelowo from "Selma," Zhang Ziyi from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," John Ortiz from "Miami Vice" and Elizabeth Debicki whom you just saw in "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol II." It's a great cast, and they certainly do what they can here. 

The movie itself? Well, its more questions than answers. The movie is being advertised as a prequel to the first "Cloverfield" movie, but I am not entirely sure that's what happened. I am going to have to watch this one again this week to fully wrap my head around it. I am sure fans of Netflix's "Black Mirror" will see this as one big episode from that show, and they wouldn't be too far off the mark. The actors all came and did their job, and the special effects are certainly cool. But the storyline feels like it cherry-picked between a dozen or so scripts and just put them together in one script.

In the future, the Earth is suffering from an energy crisis so terrible that the worlds are considering going to war with each other. So an international space crew goes up to into space after discovering an unlimited energy source. The crew spends two years trying to harness this source to no avail. Finally they get ahold of it, but bad things start to happen, and before we know it, Earth has suddenly disappeared. Then, strange things begin to happen on the space station. Mysterious people show up, people start dying, the whole bit. The movie plays with ideas of alternate dimensions and multiple realities, but in no specific ways, it doesn't really connect or focus on a story its trying to tell.

At one moment it feels like "Event Horizon," another moment it feels like "Alien," another moment it feels like "Sunshine." It feels like a summation of about a dozen different space movies that I can think of, but never really focusing on a satisfying whole. I am sure what some people want to know is how it ties into "Cloverfield." I already know that some believe it doesn't connect at all, leaving them frustrated. I think the movie connects to the first "Cloverfield," I mean, without giving anything away, there is that big money shot at the end. I am just not sure it connects the way people believe it does.

The actors make most of the frustrating parts bearable in this movie, and the top-notch special effects certainly will keep audiences entranced in this one. I do believe that "Cloverfield Paradox" does have something on its mind, I am just not entirely sure what it is. What's most frustrating is that I can't tell if this is just a mystery movie with a good puzzle or if its purposely confusing for the sake of it. I will have to give this one another watch, and afterward maybe I'll write a second piece where we can pull this thing apart together. For now, "Cloverfield Paradox" is an interesting entry in this "Cloverfield" series, whatever the series is at this point. But I can't help but admit that I think this entry could have been more.


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