The story starts quite mawkishly, setting up characters’ relationships efficiently but with a slightly makeshift air. Within no time at all though this set up detours into a predominantly space set adventure then loops into action packed hard sci-fi/ popcorn epic like Independence Day straddled Sunshine. A key event swiftly turns the tables on the crew of a space vessel stranded on a critical government mission. Beneath their shuttle sub-plots unravel on a fragile, energy famished earth, as characters tied to those on board fret and speculate over the safety of their relatives. Set-pieces unravel relentlessly en masse as crew members are tested in life-threatening situations that unstitch in a manner that makes one expect Richard O’Brien to turn up and reward survivors with a crystal.
After the aforementioned cataclysmic event, character dynamics adjust and strange events on board lead to the unravelling of some spectacular mind-bending, dimension hopping, Higgs boson smashing body horror. This is mixed with Inception style ship twisting and an Agatha Christie air of mystery after paranoia/ conspiracies germinate.
Tension is cushioned by welcome comedy that mostly comes via Chris O’Dowd’s ship mate Mundy delivering pratfalls and dunce one liners like Dougal Mcguire and Ash Williams tussled drunk into Seth Brundle’s teleporter. Other characters take the guise of Elizabeth Debicki’s Jensen and Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Hamilton, whose arc causes clashes with the other crew members. Meanwhile Daniel Bruhl’s Schmidt and David Oyelowo dot the backdrop in secondary positions and serve a purpose amidst the interstellar carnage.
The Cloverfield Paradox is mostly single location set space disaster movie with a sting in its tale and a moral message that connects to its modern iPhone lobotomised audiences that (thankfully) doesn’t resemble Alien(s) or its predecessor 10 Cloverfield Lane which was predominantly based in a bunker. Director Julius Onah delivers jaw-dropping action with a vibrant comic book palette that’s tonally different/ at polar opposites from its predecessor and perfect for the source but the punchy plot feels a bit too perfunctory and is sometimes a bit hard to process amidst the constant action and droopy exposition. Viewers have little time to absorb the set-up before the action takes precedence but it is still mostly constant fun.
While our morsel hungry brains, conditioned by social media want the particulars delivered like neatly packaged parcels as quickly as possible for that next sugary hit, a little film-making finesse goes a long way. It’s not as though we’re expecting high art from a franchise that’s marketing ingenuity is starting to outdo the content of its product but some kind of natural, nifty visual flair (disregarding the astounding synthetics) would be welcome. It’s incredible that a “blockbuster” as hotly anticipated as a Cloverfield sequel can arrive so instantly in this age of immediate news/ online bean spilling. This makes the manner in which The Cloverfield Paradox landed today all the more remarkable. Even though this is not quite as solid as the first two trilogy entries, Onah’s work is admirably unlike its predecessors but a bit too stylistically similar to what one would expect from any other kind of generic mainstream sci-fi action movie. Unlike Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane it is slightly too bog standard in its execution, thoughtlessly stunt loaded and doesn’t utilise the fascinating hard sci-fi concepts at its core in as profound a manner as hard sci-fi fans yearn for but is a hugely enjoyable space romp none the less and will make any Monday morning a better one.