Tuesday, April 24, 2018

In short: The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)

In the near future, the world is on the brink of war – or really, a lot of wars everywhere – caused by an energy crisis. There is still one international attempt at solving the world’s energy troubles in form of a highly experimental particle accelerator built in Earth’s orbit. However, the crew of scientists (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, John Ortiz, Chris O’Dowd, Aksel Hennie, Zhan Ziyi) can’t quite seem to crack the problem. Time is running out, and tensions between the crew members as well as on Earth rise. Things really start to go to crap when one of the last possible attempts with the accelerator actually seems to succeeds, only with something happening to the station that turns things decidedly weird. Not to speak of the little fact that our protagonists seem to have lost Earth.

Ironically, that isn’t even the most troubling problem our protagonists now encounter. The station seems to take on a life of its own, its walls shifting and moving and even starting to become a bit nippy. And let’s not even talk about the woman (Elizabeth Debicki) the crew finds in one of the station’s walls who says she’s a member of the team. A member nobody seems to remember, but who sometimes appears and disappears in photographs of the crew, for that matter.

After five minutes of intense hype, Julius Onah’s Netflix entry in the Cloverfield universe got a right critical drubbing from mainstream critics. Me, I found myself enjoying the film just fine, sometimes even more than that, but I can understand why not only mainstream critics but also people who actually have a clue about fantastic genre film aren’t terribly happy with the movie at hand. It is, after all, impossible to deny that Paradox does waste quite a few interesting ideas and a wonderful cast on a very standard plot with a very standard finale and on in general not terribly interesting characters. There’s much more – and much stranger things – to be done with its conceit of alternative universes and I wish the film had given more characters than just Mbatha-Raw’s reason to be emotionally involved with the alternative universe they find themselves in. Or, you know, had brought them into a universe that’s just stranger than the one we got.

On the other hand, the actors are good fun in the roles they actually have, and the plot, while not as interesting as I would have hoped for, does hit its standard beats expertly enough. I also like the way the film kinda-sorta explains how the different Cloverfield films might relate to one another in a way that leaves the door wide open for the following Cloverfields to do whatever the hell they want.

Because I’m me, I can’t end this without mentioning the utter glee I felt once the business about the arm (the film’s true hero) started. There’s something to be said about a film that dares to do something so silly (some would say goofy) and even make it important to the plot.

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