It's almost impossible to separate the
circumstances around The Cloverfield Paradox's release from a review
of the movie itself, for good or ill. We didn't even know the title
of this movie 24 hours ago and now just about everybody has seen it.
That's groundbreaking and something
only Netflix can get away with. I don't think even Hulu or Amazon has
the clout (and deep enough pockets) to pull something like that.
The critics are savaging the movie and
they're not entirely wrong. On a script level The Cloverfield Paradox
is a mess. The science is sloppy and inconsistent. The film is filled
with eye-rolling conveniences and “just because we need it there”
plot points, but it's not the worst thing you've seen. Hell, it's
probably not the worst thing you've seen this year.
Are critics upset about it wholly
because it's a sci-fi/horror flick that doesn't have a rock solid
script or is there something deeper there? It's interesting to note
that this kind of surprise drop takes the film critic out of the
equation, at least when it comes to first blush impressions. That
might rub some the wrong way on its surface and just maybe that
resentment sneaks its way into some of the more vitriolic hot takes
that have come out over the 16 or so hours.
Now, I don't buy into movie critic
conspiracy theories, mostly because I've been in that world since I
was 16 and have seen very little evidence of just about every
accusation (from studio bribes to opinions being influenced in major
ways by access), so I won't say this is true for everybody who didn't
like this obviously super flawed movie, but it is an interesting
question as we face a rapidly evolving feature film distribution
Personal taste always comes into play
as well. For instance, I have a great big ol' soft spot for sci-fi
horror and may be more lenient toward the genre than some critics. I
also put a lot of weight in high production value and can forgive
some plot issues if there are characters I like in the mix.
Not everybody wants that out of their
cinematic adventures. I get that, which is why a good review, whether
positive or negative, is at its best when it communicates context.
You know my context so when I say I actually liked The Cloverfield
Paradox you should have a handle on why.
Yes, they once again shoe-horned a
Cloverfield tie-in to another completely unrelated script and yes, it
shows. It feels like this movie should have had an A and B story. The
A story being the sci-fi horror film following Gugu Mbatha-Raw's
Hamilton in space as her scientific experiment on board a space
shuttle goes wrong and the B story being her husband Michael's story
on Earth as the accident above triggers the events of the first
Either you do that or you keep it a
Twilight Zone twist like they did with 10 Cloverfield Lane. You can't
have it both ways. They spend just enough time with Roger Davies on
Earth to distract from the space story, but not enough to actually
have a story reason to divide the narrative like that.
I like the idea of Davies on a parallel
story to the first Cloverfield film while his wife is dealing with
some very heady ideas about their relationship in what's going on in
space, but it's only that: an idea. If it had been fully integrated
then the movie would have been significantly better, but as it is
it's just there.
Or you double down on the formula 10
Cloverfield Lane established and have the big twist be that the
energy test that goes wrong in space creates the events of the first
movie and have that revealed at the end. As much as the final shot of
the movie gets shit on by many of my colleagues I think it could have
been a great reveal. It may be a bit typical of these darker
sci-fi/horror films (Life had a similar dark ending), but if you're
going to stick to a formula do one that has a good pay off.
The reason I can't hate this movie is
because I just like the characters too much. The performances from
Mbatha-Raw, Inglourious Basterds' Daniel Bruhl, David Oyelowo and
Chris O'Dowd are all notable. I like their chemistry, I like their
characters, so I actually gave a shit about what was going on in the
Even when the plot falls into the
generic sci-fi/horror movie formula I still liked the characters
enough to not let that kill the movie for me. There is one beautiful
stretch where things start getting reeaaaaaallllly weird and if that
had been the turning point of the movie and they'd fully committed to
some of those big, trippy, bizarre ideas the movie would have been
much better for it. Sadly it never does, but again I was invested
enough by this point to see it through to the end.
I can't argue the many, many plot
conveniences and stuff that made little sense save for that it was
needed to push the story along and that could be a movie killer for
you. It was indeed for many of my colleagues, but I guess my
expectations were more in line for what the movie actually wanted to
give me so I was able to leave satisfied.
Also the price was right. I didn't pay
$15 for a ticket and was able to watch it by firing up my Xbox and
clicking on the Netflix app, so I find it hard to get all worked up
like the movie personally insulted me.
This isn't the death of the Cloverfield
franchise... it might be a warning that people might want to see a
movie that, you know, starts out as a Cloverfield movie and isn't
retrofitted late in the game to be one, but it's not the end of the
line. It's not an affront to the sterling legacy of cheesy
sci-fi/horror movies. It's a well-shot, sometimes interesting and
risky, goofy character piece about what happens when you fool with
The plot is pretty much a copy of about a dozen Star
Trek episodes, but with a little taste of the nastiness of something
more akin to Event Horizon or the '80s schlockfest Galaxy of Terror.
Both of those examples are way more successful at hitting that mark,
but I guess at the end of the day I give The Cloverfield Paradox
point for even aiming to be that kind of movie.
What do you folks think? Am I being too
easy on this one? Or is everybody else being too tough?