Abrams way off beaten path with ‘Cloverfield Paradox’

Photo courtesy of Bad Robot

By Chic DiCiccio

In an effort to release a movie that is actually worse than the Will Smith-starring “Bright,” Netflix has snagged the distribution rights to the J.J. Abrams-produced “The Cloverfield Paradox.” The only smart decision regarding this movie involves marketing. Netflix made it available for streaming the moment that the Super Bowl ended on Sunday. Perhaps they did so in hopes that everyone was in a food coma or an alcohol-induced stupor to notice just how insanely bad the movie is.

While “10 Cloverfield Lane” played out as a fantastic claustrophobic thriller, “The Cloverfield Paradox” is so poorly conceived and written that Netflix subscribers should be visibly shaken about the rising fees that are presumably funding this garbage. How did this wretched screenplay attract such a talented cast? Why did J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company taint a reasonably decent brand name like “Cloverfield” by force feeding the thinnest of narratives into this generic time waste?

“The Cloverfield Paradox” takes place in 2028 when the Earth is smack dab in the middle of a mass energy crisis causing pandemonium, mass hysteria and potential world power warfare. Prior to wanting to kill each other, the world powers got together and built the Cloverfield Space Station. Its crew is tasked with the goal of working on a fancy thing called a particle accelerator that can, if it works, provide unlimited energy for Earth.

Among the crew is Ava (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a British citizen who leaves her husband, Michael (Roger Davies), behind as they mourn the loss of their children. Her life and the current situation on Earth is quickly explained prior to a credits sequence that shows Ava and the station’s crew working on their project for well over two years. The credits stop and voila! The particle accelerator works!

Well, it sort of works. See, the machine has some drawbacks, and some tin foil hat kooks think that it could open up a portal to other dimensions that could then attack Earth. Naturally, the nut jobs are right and after the accelerator properly works, all hell breaks loose. The space station disappears from orbit, leaving Earth wondering where they went as the planet is under attack by … something.

It’s not a completely terrible premise, but the promise of an entertaining movie lasts for about 20 minutes. Once the station is lost, this great cast gets to run around the space station and get picked off one by one while spouting gibberish dialogue that sci-fi fan fiction writers would call bland.

“The Cloverfield Paradox” becomes a video game and its characters move from level to level, completing tasks that get progressively sillier and more difficult until the final “big bad” shows up.

“The Cloverfield Paradox” is director Julius Onah’s first big budget movie and he’s dealing with such a terrible script (courtesy of Oren Uziel) that it’s impossible to judge his work. Characters are killed in inexplicable ways by a space station that is … haunted? Maybe? There’s literally no explanation for it. There’s also a chance that whomever decided on using the word “paradox” so much doesn’t really know what it means.

In addition to Mbatha-Raw, supporting actors Daniel Bruhl, David Oyelowo, Zhang Ziyi, Chris O’Dowd, John Ortiz and Elizabeth Debicki are forced to endure this nonsense. Debicki is particularly brutal, while only O’Dowd works as the comedic relief.

“The Cloverfield Paradox” is marketing disguised as a movie event. It’s hoping to lure in those Abrams devotees that, for some reason, continue to fall for his “nostalgia as entertainment” shtick. It’s getting to be tiresome, and this ham-fisted third entry into a “trilogy” risks changing Abrams’ title from “producer” to “charlatan.”

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