If The Cloverfield Paradox went by any other name, like, say, Worms In Space, it would be relegated to direct-to-home video status. But because this is A Cloverfield Movie — the third overall, after the clever found footage original and the far superior 10 Cloverfield Lane — it got the (very expensive) Super Bowl commercial treatment and a surprise late-night release on Netflix. Paradox pulled a Beyoncé, except it’s hard to make Lemonade out of this lemon.
Directed by Julius Onah, The Cloverfield Paradox begins on Earth, where Ava (the wonderful Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Michael (Roger Davies) are coping with the death of their children. But mostly the film takes place in space, aboard the Cloverfield Station. The ship’s mission: use a particle accelerator called The Shepherd to provide Earth with a limitless supply of energy. But — this is a big but — if things go wrong: monsters. (Or in the words of the always-welcome Donal Logue, “Monsters, demons, and beasts from the sea [may emerge], not just here, but in the past, future, and other dimensions.”) The Cloverfield’s crew is made up of Ava, Evil-Looking Guy with Glasses, Zhang Ziyi, David Oyelowo, and… others? The stock characters fail to stand out, with the exception of Elizabeth Debicki’s icy Mina and Chris O’Dowd’s Mundy, who in the best scene of the movie — spoilers, but it must be mentioned — loses his arm. This, in turn, leads to the best line of the movie.
The Cloverfield Paradox could have been campy fun, and at times, especially when worms are involved, it is. There’s even a germ of a good idea in Oren Uziel’s script: a sci-fi horror movie where the Earth vanishes? That opens up a lot of mind-bending opportunities. But with its haphazard plot twists and muddy motivations, Paradox mostly takes the boring parts from Life, Alien: Covenant, Event Horizon, and Interstellar (yes, people cry looking at screens), with a hint of one of the lesser Black Mirror episodes, and adds the word “Cloverfield.”