Are you a Star Trek fan? Then you aren’t missing much here.
Dropped sensationally on Netflix the same day the trailer first aired at the Super Bowl, The Cloverfield Paradox, the third and by no means final entry in what could loosely be described as an anthology series of films, for what fleeting hype it had is still a non-event.
Following on from the far superior 10 Cloverfield Lane, the 2016 iteration unlike it’s successor wisely acknowledged it’s relationship to the original ’08 hit as just that bit more than tokenistic, the connection here coming across as a hastily inserted addendum to an almost wholly distinct story. The now two years-old instalment too benefiting from a claustrophobic focus on a few finite characters, The Cloverfield Paradox’s space station setting is ripe for a similar treatment yet squanders it’s premise and ample cast.
An enviable assortment of performers, among them Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, Daniel Bruhl, Chris O’Dowd and Headhunters’ excellent Aksel Hennie, barely any rise above the one line biopics that may have formed the basis of an initial pitch yet don’t seem to have been fleshed out too grearly. Scientists and engineers plucked from corners of the world, they are sent beyond our atmosphere to fix some interminable problem with earth. Packing the requisite fidgety body parts, temperamental lodgings, air locks and the vast vacuum that is space, think Interstellar, Event Horizon, Sunshine, Life or just about any ensemble space adventure you’ve ever seen.
Enter Australia’s own Elizabeth Debicki in a fashion that you would normally think would make such shrewd minds circumspect, had they not more than likely just binged on seven seasons of Next Generation and hence considered her late addition to proceedings as probably benign. Compounded with the half-baked premises of several much better Star Trek episodes and staples of science fiction, a few emotive moments and monumentally talented actors can’t distract from the improbable and frustratingly familiar turns of events. O’Dowd, the comic interloper, above all pervades a tonal plane distinct from the scramble of subplots that would otherwise have you believe this is an earnest drama.
As a standalone film The Cloverfield Paradox is sparingly good and regularly frustrating. As but an episode in a feature-length series, a recurrence we very well may need to get used to if Netflix can just drop films like mid-season premieres, it begs validation in a grander narrative. A promise itself that may yet be delivered if Netflix et al can fund lone mid-budget screenplays appended with the Cloverfield stamp, the quality that this series’ unorthodox methods of release sanguinely suggest will hopefully be present next time around.
The Cloverfield Paradox is now streaming on Netflix