This might be my favorite kind of TV-MA. This is TV-MA for sci-fi gross out scares. I don't know why that seems wholesome. I know it isn't. I'm an American hypocrite with that logic, but there's no one evil causing malice. It's a series of gross out events that no one is behind. People die really gross deaths, but it's not like someone is doing it to them. Regardless, pretty gross.
DIRECTOR: Julius Onah
I think the Cloverfield franchise might be the most low-stakes franchise that I tend to watch. I don't need them to be great. I just need them to be entertaining. That's a pretty damning criticism of a franchise, but it also fits pretty well. When I saw the first Cloverfield movie, I got motion sick. I normally can handle found footage films, but that one had a lot of insane motion. Plus I watched it on the big screen. It's (what was considered at the time only a spiritual) follow up, 10 Cloverfield Lane went as far as to say it was a pretty great movie. It really destroyed my expectations. But it also was way more of a psychological thriller that kind of (SPOILER FOR 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE) slipped when it started to show monsters. But the movie itself was very clever because it seemed like it had such low stakes. This wasn't a "blow up the city" movie. It was a Twilight Zone episode. It was a really good Twilight Zone episode. That's what I like from this. When Cloverfield continued its tradition of viral guerrilla marketing by just releasing the movie unannounced after the Super Bowl, I lost my mind. "How are they doing this?" I thought. I almost watched it there and then, but it was Oscar season and everything took a backseat. I know that most of the reviews for this movie are garbage, but when is that going to stop me, especially when I have little to lose?
The Cloverfield Paradox isn't a great movie. In fact, it's probably the weakest of the bunch. But like I mentioned, who cares? It is fun. I can't help but make connections to Event Horizon or Final Destination. The big criticism I hear is that the movie is so cryptic and goes over everyone's heads. I think people might be overthinking this movie...by a lot. I can see why there is this confusion with this movie. The Cloverfield movies are good at doing one thing, teasing the question of "What does this all mean?" This is a J.J. Abrams thing. There are always these Easter Eggs that imply that there is a master narrative behind the obvious narrative. But at the end of the day, these are suspenseful monster movies. Like Lost, these Easter Eggs are fun little details, but they ultimately mean very little. For die hard fans, there's something to explore. But The Cloverfield Paradox only kind of works because of its superficial level. I heard that 10 Cloverfield Lane wasn't originally supposed to be a Cloverfield movie. It was just a high concept movie that, like Die Hard (I just used "Die Hard" in two different ways in the past two sentences. I. Am. Lazzzzzzyyyy) and its third installment. At the end of the day, this is an outer space supernatural horror. What caused all of this? They went to another dimension. Why does going to another dimension make nature want to kill you? Nothing really, but if you just accept that other dimensions want to kill you, the movie kind of works. It works on the same logic that Final Destination works. The idea that the universe is trying to purge any kind of mistake is a fun one, but it is ultimately unsatisfying. I love a well reasoned explanation for my sci-fi. But I also acknowledge that I'd rather have no explanation than a bad explanation. The Cloverfield Paradox kind of lives in that zone. It would be ultimately improved if the events on board the space station even made a lick of sense, but the movie would have been way worse if there was an infodump of technobabble that asked its audience to ignore the flaws of the argument. If I was in the filmmakers's shoes, I probably would have done the same thing.
The movie is the fun kind of scary. Like, it never makes me actually scared (because I am infected with toxic masculinity that dares not be vulnerable). But it is fun and suspenseful. I imagine that a lot of this movie rested on cool visuals. The Chris O'Dowd sequence that harkens back to Evil Dead 2 is super fun. It plays on that joke one time too many, but the concept is fun overall. Similarly, the ice scene is super great. These are moments that don't really need to be in the movie, but really define the movie. It's funny. I always groan when people tell me that a Star Wars prequel was great because the lightsaber sequences are way better or that the podracer scene rules. I think it is my lack of investment that makes it okay. The Cloverfield Paradox is not a good movie as a whole, but just a sequence of great moments all cobbled together. It's like I know how the magic trick is done, but the execution of it was still pretty impressive. There are these moments that are supposed to drop my jaw, but all I can think is "That's pretty fun. Let's go with that." Also, the best addition to this movie to give it a fun tone is Chris O'Dowd. I know it isn't exactly gutsy to praise the comic relief for his contribution to the movie, but he is, by far, the best part of the movie. I do want to give some credit to Gugu Mbatha-Raw's Hamilton for holding down the movie. But her character hit beats that I've seen in other movies. (MINOR SPOILERS) It seems like any woman who goes into space has the major internal conflict of dealing with dead children. I don't know why that trope exists. Perhaps the amount of time that it would take to become an astronaut implies that a mother couldn't be home, but I find that emotional challenge a bit tiresome. The Cloverfield Paradox really makes that the heart of the story and I don't know if it works as much as it has in other movies. The best thing that the internal conflict does is present her with a moral dilemma that has an obvious answer.
I will give the movie a small amount of points when it comes to the villain of the piece. It's not the best example of a villain who has a point. That award goes to Killmonger. But the villain of this story does have a good point about her goal. She might not be the bad guy. We all know that she's a bad guy because her means to solving the problem is a bit abhorrent, but would I do differently in the same situation. (Yes, I know I would. But at least I would think about it.) I like when the villain is somewhat sympathetic. The end wraps up a bit nicely and I don't necessarily love that. The part that kind of loses points is that the end of the movie, that is meant to be a twist, is telegraphed way too much throughout the film. That final shot isn't what it is supposed to be. As part of that, I don't necessarily love that the purpose of The Cloverfield Paradox is meant to unify their stories. I like that the only connection before this moment was that they were just supernatural horror movie that shared a similar look. The Cloverfield Paradox is a little bit of a hamfisted retcon explaining the other two movies. I didn't need it, but it does make them officially sequels and prequels of one another. I guess that makes the franchise have legs, but it also restricts them overall.
The movie isn't the worst thing in the world. I know when a sequel gets worse reviews, it tends to be the worst thing ever. It's a fun movie that ultimately doesn't matter. But it is still a good time for people who like supernatural horror.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.