As you may have heard, there were two major surprises connected with “The Cloverfield Paradox” (2018). The first was its surprise release via Netflix on Sunday immediately after the Super Bowl. The second was the surprise that it was a truly mediocre movie. I can’t actually recommend “The Cloverfield Paradox,” and I’d rate it a 4 out of 10.
It’s a mess. It’s crowded with too many characters, cluttered with too many plot points, and seems like at least three movies crammed into one. The writing is lackluster — and characters appear to have minimal reactions to things that should astound and terrify them. Much of my enjoyment was hampered by a bizarre and inexplicable plot point. (What was the deal with one crew member’s arm?) And my mind was wandering toward the end.
What’s sad is this — hidden within the film is the germ of a vastly better movie. Consider the plights faced by the characters played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Elizabeth Debicki, and the interaction between them. (I’m keeping things intentionally vague here to avoid spoilers.) How much better would this movie be if it was strictly about that subplot alone? With some skilled screenwriting, it could have been a beautifully tragic soft-sci-fi drama — and it wouldn’t require much in the way of special effects either. Both actresses were damned terrific here. Given a proper script and a feature-length exploration, they could have given us a new sci-fi classic. Oh, well — file this movie under “missed opportunities.”
One more thing — this actually does connect with the previous “Cloverfield” films, albeit in a surprising way. It’s a result of the unusual story device that’s emphasized in the movie’s second half, and it’s pretty neat. This is one of the things the movie gets right … if you’re still confused after the film is over, then google an explanation of it, as I did.