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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

The Cloverfield Paradox  (2018)
2 Stars
Directed by Julius Onah.
Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, John Ortiz, Chris O'Dowd, Zhang Ziyi, Aksel Hennie, Roger Davies, Clover Nee; voices of Simon Pegg, Ken Olin, Greg Grunberg.
2018 – 102 minutes
Not Rated (equivalent of PG-13 for violence, language and thematic material).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for, February 7, 2018.
Even if 2008's chilling found-footage alien invasion thriller "Cloverfield" and 2016's paranoid suspense companion piece "10 Cloverfield Lane" weren't great films (they are), "The Cloverfield Paradox" would still feel underwhelming, warmed-over, and far too familiar. 1979's "Alien," 1997's "Event Horizon," 2002's "Solaris," 2007's "Sunshine," and 2017's "Life," to name a few—all are far superior space-set variations on similar themes and concepts involving alternate realities, deadly creatures, and a valiant attempt to save the world as the body count rises. Taken as the latest addition in the Cloverfield Universe, however, it's even more disappointing, an unnecessary entry that seems tacked-on while overcomplicating matters and contradicting what has already been established. Director Julius Onah has made a technically proficient effort and lead actor Gugu Mbatha-Raw (2017's "Beauty and the Beast") is in fine form as our strong, dramatically charged heroine, but their dedicated work is in service of a whole lot of convoluted inconsequentiality.

Nearly two years into a mission to save the planet from a catastrophic energy deficit, the seven-person crew of the Cloverfield Space Station have enough fuel for only three remaining attempts to unlock a world-saving endless supply of power. Just when they think they've finally succeeded, a system overload places them in grave danger. Have Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), Kiel (David Oyelowo), Schmidt (Daniel Brühl) and the rest of the crew zapped themselves into a different dimension? As far-fetched as this may seem, they cannot dispute several truths: their signal to a suddenly-missing Earth is nonexistent, and a mysterious woman named Jensen (Elizabeth Debicki) is found injured within the walls of the station, claiming to be a crew member none of them remember. As the inhabitants are systematically wiped out under progressively strange circumstances, alliances are formed and mistrust rises among the ranks. If they are unable to find their way back to their proper time and reality, their failure may spell the end of the world.

"The Cloverfield Paradox" imagines a planet in dire straits that is nothing like the normal, everyday one seen in the original "Cloverfield." Save for a few instances where screenwriter Oren Uziel (2014's "22 Jump Street") tosses in misdirects and vague references to the previous installments, this one strikes as a not-very-original original script that has shoehorned the Cloverfield Monster, an underground bunker similar to the one in "10 Cloverfield Lane," and a Slusho cup into brief scenes as afterthoughts. Otherwise, this feels like a disconnected standalone, one that offers a handful of brain-twisting ideas about parallel universes and human doubles but hasn't properly thought any of them out. Worse, it lessens the mystique of what has gone before. "Cloverfield" and "10 Cloverfield Lane" left audiences thrilled and exhilarated. "The Cloverfield Paradox" will leave them scratching their heads and shrugging their shoulders.
© 2018 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

[Blu-ray Review] Cursed Films (2020)

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