Earth is losing its energy. Scientists have discovered a way to recalibrate that energy, but it involves a trip into space for a team of people who must understand that the effort (which involves a machine that sends a blast of energy into the earth's atmosphere or something) may be in vain. Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), still mourning the deaths of her children in a random accident, heads the crew onboard the Cloverfield Space Station. She and its other members (played by the wasted likes of David Oyelowo, Daniel Bruhl, John Ortiz, Chris O'Dowd, Aksel Hennie, and Ziyi Zhang) are thrown for a loop when an odd sequence of events apparently causes Earth to disappear from their view and, worse, radar. Then things get really weird.
Perhaps the key to approaching The Cloverfield Paradox is to separate it from the film that shares the second word of its title. Expectations of a direct connection to 2008's Cloverfield should be low for audiences who are watching for tiny hints of that connection within the plot. As with 2016's 10 Cloverfield Lane, whatever connection there might be is limited to a denouement that suggests the story of the earlier movie was merely one of many tied together by the event that made up its plot. Oren Uziel's screenplay for this new movie in the franchise likewise seems to have been written as its own entity, with the Cloverfield elements thrown onto the end rather haphazardly.
How they have been attached so meaninglessly will not be revealed here. The anthological nature of this budding series means, of course, that the story Uziel is telling is not entirely a vacuum, but for approximately 95 minutes, it certainly resembles one. The remaining five minutes is a problem, but it is one whose solution likely rests outside of the control of Uziel or director Julius Onah, who seem more focused on the agreeably silly, often too sincerely performed sci-horror adventure of their story to care much about connecting the film to two others. Indeed, the act of looking for those connections serves to undermine the self-contained narrative that surrounds them.
That isn't to say, unfortunately, that said self-contained narrative holds up. There is a heap of unrealized potential in the narrative that Uziel has cooked up, but the screenwriter seems unable to do much beyond shuffling through his ideas (which inevitably involve dimensional travel and the material consequences therein) by way of genuinely clever horror set-ups that lead to the most generic payoffs that could possibly result from those set-ups. It all leads to a frenzied chase through the bowels of the station, after all but three characters have been disposed of, and a final shot that sums up the whole enterprise as kind of vapid. The Cloverfield Paradox is certainly most problematic when it attempts to be something grander than it is, but even the smaller story here is underwhelming.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Hamilton), David Oyelowo (Kiel), Daniel Bruhl (Schmidt), Elizabeth Debicki (Jensen), John Ortiz (Monk), Chris O'Dowd (Mundy), Ziyi Zhang (Tam), Aksel Hennie (Volkov).
Directed by Julius Onah and written by Oren Uziel.
No MPAA rating.
Released on February 4, 2018.