BY ERIN CARBERRY ’19
Netflix released the third installment in the science fiction “Cloverfield” series following two short ads during the Super Bowl. In the 10 years since the first “Cloverfield” film and two years since its sequel, “10 Cloverfield Lane,” the seemingly rushed production of “The Cloverfield Paradox” is obvious. Set in the year 2028, when humanity has nearly depleted their energy supply and now rely on a particle accelerator called “the Shepard” for survival, “The Cloverfield Paradox” is a haphazard mash of other, more critically-acclaimed works. The film starts with the atmosphere of a lazily-crafted episode of “Black Mirror” but by the time the narrative shifts to the Cloverfield space station, it becomes a weaker version of “Alien” (complete with several recreations of its most iconic moments). Relying on jump-scares and on-screen violence, the film becomes entirely predictable and brings nothing new to the series or the genre.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw (“Free State of Jones”) plays communications officer Ava Hamilton, who serves as the film’s “final girl,” a convention common in horror films and made famous by Vera Miles’ Lila Crane in “Psycho.” Despite Mbatha-Raw’s best efforts, Ava is a one-note protagonist who fails to elicit any genuine fondness from the audience. Instead, the film uses a series of well-known tricks and tropes to try and tug at our heartstrings, all of which fall flat. This includes playing home video-style footage of Ava’s deceased children over and over, at nearly every pivotal moment. Mbatha-Raw is far from the only talent stunted: Elizabeth Debicki (“The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”), Daniel Brühl (“Captain America: Civil War”) and Zhang Ziyi (“Memoirs of a Geisha”) all give solid performances, but struggle against their stereotypical characters and the film’s unimaginative plot. It is not surprising that the film raises a few unanswered questions.
With this type of narrative — a small crew stranded in space and trapped in their ship, slowly invaded by otherworldly threats they must battle against to save themselves and return home — tying each loose end would feel too easy. Still, the questions that “The Cloverfield Paradox” leaves behind make its plot occasionally difficult to follow and easily frustrating to its audience as seemingly important moments go by entirely unexplained. Who or what is Volkov speaking to when he examines his eye in the mirror? Why is Jensen the only crew member from the alternate reality who ends up on the Shepard? By the time the credits begin to roll, you feel confused and realize just how unsatisfying the film’s conclusion is. Ultimately, “The Cloverfield Paradox” is much more akin to a made-for-TV SyFy original than a feature film.
The influence of producer J.J. Abrams, somewhat of a modern auteur, is abundantly clear through the film’s aesthetic with several shots taken directly from his earlier works, including “Lost” and “Star Trek.” “The Cloverfield Paradox” also conforms to a recent pattern of Abrams’ with its overt and unapologetic similarities to “Alien,” and received mixed reviews. One can’t help but wonder: how many times will Abrams reshoot sci-fi classics under the guise of original works, and how long will he continue to find success doing so?