“The Cloverfield Paradox”

“Paradox” is a well-suited pronoun for The Cloverfield Paradox, considering it doesn’t answer the questions it was supposed to.

Like in Lost in Space and Danny Boyle’s great Sunshine, Earth is suffering an energy crisis, prompting a space odyssey. Like in Sunshine, GravityMoon, and Life, the crew members are grieving, withdrawn, and headstrong. We have an astronaut who lost her kids (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a scientist who prefers being in space over Earth (Daniel Brühl), and a noble captain with a military background (David Oyelowo). There’s also the wisecracker (Chris O’Dowd), an astronaut who loses his mind (Aksel Hennie), and a caricature (the talented and underused Zhang Ziyi).

Like in Event Horizon, the crew travels into another dimension, then the crew turns on each other, the ship becomes possessed, and a giant monster attacks Earth. None of this is explained other than they went into an alternate dimension.

I admire the Cloverfield franchise because we don’t have many anthological film franchises and the previous entries were unique. Cloverfield combined the found footage and giant monster genres, resulting in a thrilling experience. 10 Cloverfield Lane established the film’s anthological style by acting as a psychological horror film set in the same universe (it’s the best of the trilogy). Paradox tries to establish a chronology to no avail.

SPOILERS OF PREVIOUS FILMS AHEAD!

Cloverfield was set in 2008 and revolves around a monster attack. 10 Cloverfield Lane isn’t clear on when it’s set, but an alien invasion occurs. There were also small references in 10 Cloverfield Lane implying they’re in the same universe. Paradox has some small connections such as featuring a minor character from 10 Cloverfield Lane and featuring the Cloverfield monster.

However, if the film takes place in 2028, why is this monster attack happening without any reference to Cloverfield? This is due to a bad move on the studio’s part – turning a movie last minute in to the newest Cloverfield movie.

Paradox was originally titled God’s Particle and had no mention of Cloverfield until J.J. Abrams purchased the film and ordered rewrites and re-shoots to fit in the Cloverfield universe. Given that Paradox was already riddled with cliches and lazy writing, it wouldn’t have been any better, but it would have at least been more contained.

Because of the studio interference and setbacks, Paradox is overstuffed with too many ideas, conflicting tones, and cliched characters. I would have liked to know why a character’s severed arm came to life and how the ship became possessed rather than focus on a monster attack that was better executed in the first Cloverfield film.

In terms of film making, Paradox is amateur. It’s dimly lit with no color scheme, we have characters tell us what we’re seeing as it’s happening, and we even get a cheesy opening credits sequence that belongs in a 1990’s sci-fi channel show. Well, at least the cast tries.

I’m worried about genre films at this point; Netflix bought Paradox since Paramount had a packed schedule this year and studios are already selling films to Netflix for “similar reasons.” Do they really have packed schedules, or are they turning Netflix into the dumpster diver?

Grade: D- (only because the cast tries).

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“10 Cloverfield Lane”

I don’think I’ve landed on this lucky of a moving-going streak during spring before. Between “The Witch”, “Deadpool”, “Zootopia”, and now “10 Cloverfield Lane”, it’s been one hell of a year so far.

Okay, so “10 Cloverfield Lane” is a movie that you should see knowing very little about, so I’ll keep it brief. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up from a car accident in a bomb shelter. She finds two men – the laidback and dimwitted Emmet (John Gallagher, Jr.) and Howard (John Goodman), the hardcore survivalist.

Questions are of course asked. “Why are we in a bomb shelter?” “What happened outside?” “Did it really happen?” “Who the hell is Howard and what’s wrong with him?!”

“10 Cloverfield Lane” is NOT related to the 2008 “Cloverfield” film, but it’s certainly an anthological installment in the series. Don’t expect a party-fueled found footage blend of science fiction and dark comedy; expect an unbearably intense and mysterious thriller with hints of sci-fi!

Freshman director Dale Tratchtenberg and co-writer Damien Chazelle (the genius behind 2014’s “Whiplash”) write a Hitchcockian claustrophobic that’s reminiscent of “The Twilight Zone” and 2011’s “Take Shelter”. There’s a lot of attention to detail in this small old-fashioned-decorated shelter, and enough time for conversations. Their writing also brings the best out of their leads.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead portrays Michelle with that cool mysterious attitude she had as Ramona Flowers in “Scott Pilgrim”, and we root for her from the introduction. We don’t know much about her other than what’s said there, but that’s just enough. John Goodman steals every scene as Howard; Howard is eccentric, menacing, and slightly pathetic, but one of the most fascinating on-screen characters this year.

“10 Cloverfield Lane” isn’t exactly perfect since there are a few scenes that rely on convenience to move forward, but that’s forgivable due to its tight direction and energetic script. Don’t worry, there’s no shaky cam!

Grade: A