8:00 am EST, February 5, 2018

‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ review: The universe expands to more than just a monster

The world of Cloverfield expands yet again with The Cloverfield Paradox, but one thing is abundantly clear: This is about more than just a monster.

Just over 10 years ago, J.J. Abrams brought a different kind of monster movie to theatres. Rather than coming at it from a military or scientific perspective, he put the story in the hands of a group of young adults who just want to survive the terrible night. Who knew that the world of Cloverfield would expand to include a particle accelerator in space?

The story continued in 2016, when 10 Cloverfield Lane hit theaters, but it was quite the departure from the found footage monster movie of the original. The close quarters thriller about a woman who finds herself trapped in a survival bunker with two men claiming its in her best interest adds a different perspective to that fateful night, but ultimately, it does little to expand the universe.

And then we enter The Cloverfield Paradox.

We quickly learn that this entire movie universe is a bit more hyper-reality than reality. While the original Cloverfield movie may have seemed like it was set in present day, we learn moments into The Cloverfield Paradox that the world has devolved into near-war over energy and access to energy sources. The movie’s answer to this problem is to send a crew of seven into space to test the use of a particle accelerator as a means of providing the world with unlimited energy resources.

And that’s where everything goes off the rails. In an attempt to keep the most shocking elements of the story alive, I will spare you the plot details, but this movie is an insane ride full of unbelievable complications and crazy twists, topped off with a major curveball in the final minutes that will definitely have you asking more than a few questions.

The plot leaves a bit to be desired, as from the moment the particle accelerator overloads, the events snowball in their levels of randomness. The explanations and justifications for the truly wacky complications help to explain how and why it appears that the ship has a consciousness all its own, especially when we learn that isn’t really the case at all. I truly think that this plot will be better served by repeat viewings, but only time will tell.

It would take a truly organized mind to keep the events of this film in some semblance of order, so major props must be given to Julius Onah for his directing here. If this story has weaknesses, they are built into the plot, and are definitely not a result of the film’s direction. Onah brought out the best in his actors as each takes center stage at one point or another. I am eager to see what he may tackle next, as this project definitely presented one hell of a challenge.

It’s easy to see which characters stand out from the crowd in this movie, especially with some pretty heavy hitters making up the central cast. Names like David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Daniel Brühl definitely make you sit up and take notice. While Daniel and David’s characters were instrumental to the plot in certain places, their roles hardly stand out when compared to Mbatha-Raw’s Hamilton. She is the true shining star here as much of the humanity of the story comes from her life and experiences. It’s easy to find yourself bouncing back and forth with the internal debates she encounters throughout this film, as the depth and struggle are written plainly across her expressive features.

We must also talk about Chris O’Dowd’s valuable comic relief. When being confronted with not-so-theoretical physics, the possibilities of traveling between dimensions, and the effects that playing with particle physics can have on entire worlds, it’s very important to diffuse the tension now and again. That role was filled with gusto by O’Dowd’s Mundy. I cannot imagine this film without him, and can’t wait to watch again and collect all my favorite lines of his. You may even see them get their own post someday soon.

Last, but most certainly never least, it would be a travesty to discuss this film without addressing the most easily relatable character: Michael. He is played most adeptly by Roger Davies in his first feature length role. While the rest of the characters spend their time aboard a space station, he is the lone voice for the events unfolding on the Earth’s surface. We are more familiar with his plight, as we have the events of Cloverfield to guide us, but he grounds the film in a reality that was desperately needed.

There is a lot to digest when unpacking the events of The Cloverfield Paradox, but it shouldn’t hinder your enjoyment too much. In fact, there are bound to be things left to discover upon repeat viewings, much like when fans discovered the mysterious object falling into the sea in the final moments of found footage in the original film.

The Cloverfield Paradox adds a lot to the world we know as Cloverfield, even going so far as to give us a reason as to why the Cloverfield monster appeared in the first place. However, for every question it answers, it seems that The Cloverfield Paradox will have you asking about 50 more, including: Does J.J. Abrams have more movies planned for this ever-expanding world? We can only hope that answer is yes, and that we won’t have to wait 10 more years for the next one.

Grade: B+

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