Two deaditors do their best to explain this…movie…thing…
Nick Peters: Hi my name is JJABRAMS. I like the plot of the first Half-Life. Let’s take that, BUT PUT IT IN SPACE. Also let’s make it Event Horizon, and include some scenes from Gravity, and maybe some Interstellar too to spice things up, and wait let’s put the aesthetic look of the ship from Mass Effect Andromeda and every other shitty space movie of the last ten years. And don’t forget Alien. It’s horror sci fi we always need Alien. Also now it’s a Cloverfield movie cuz fuck you I’m JJABRAMS.
Luis Gómez: Okay, so to explain what that was all about: J.J. Abrams, modern cinema’s greatest troll, decided to drop The Cloverfield Paradox, the newest film in the Cloverfield anthology franchise on Netflix right after the Super Bowl. Then Nick and I watched it. And now we’re here.
NP: I think I watched it, or something. I don’t know, the last two hours of my life is a blur.
LG: Let’s backtrack a little and talk about how we got to this point, because I think that bears telling.
NP: Ten years ago, JJABRAMS wanted to make an American Godzilla, so he produced a shaky cam movie about a monster that attacks New York City, directed by Matt Reeves. It did have a real great lead ad campaign, which definitely planted the seeds to what the ad campaign for 10 Cloverfield Lane and this wonderful movie, (and the next movie probably, which apparently is already filmed).
LG: Right, but what’s also interesting is that the marketing campaigns have gotten shorter every time. Cloverfield had this long extensive ARG, and then 10 Cloverfield Lane had a rush campaign three months before the film premiered, and I guess this time they just wanted to spend all their money at once so they dropped ONE AD and then released the movie.
NP: Watch Overlord (the next one) already has been released and is just fucking out there.
LG: It’s hiding out there on the internet, like Ultron in that one movie.
NP: It’s just j’chilling on the Dark Web. Or it’s on PornHub.
LG: LET’S TALK ABOUT THE FILM NOW.
LG: Basic plot summary: the world is about to have a war because there’s no more natural resources, so some nerds go to live on a spaceship in space with a big particle accelerator to try and come up with a way of generating unlimited power. And then everything goes wrong and they rip a hole in spacetime and everything goes to shit, because of course it does.
NP: It was just ok. My only thoughts after it ended was basically just, that was a movie. It wasn’t an awful trash dumpster fire, but it also wasn’t this amazing fucking movie. It was just eh.
LG: Agreed. This movie, which is Julius Onah’s first big budget production, definitely wears its influences on its sleeve – hence your impassioned rant at the beginning. I think that ultimately doesn’t help the movie, but it doesn’t hurt too much either. The story doesn’t surprise you, but some of the moment to moment action is interesting, in part because its riffing on a lot of established tropes.
NP: I’ve never really had a problem if a movie isn’t that surprising, as long as what it does it does well. There were definitely great ideas and interesting scenes, but my favorite parts of the movie was when things got wacky and weird on the ship. The worms, the hand, the metal becoming a sentient thing. All of that was great and strange and out there. Honestly everything that wasn’t Cloverfield was great. Yet, they kept cutting back to a bunch of unisnipred scenes on Earth that were neither interesting story wise nor visually.
LG: At one point you mentioned that the whole bit with the gyroscope inside the dude was straight out of Resident Evil, so trust us when we say that this movie pulls from basically everywhere.
NP: I mean that one metal goop gun was literally just the fucking gun from the new Prey.
LG: Poor Chris O’Dowd.
LG: I’d agree with you on the Earth bits though – it felt like a very late script addition to bring the film more in line with the rest of the franchise, and it suffers from that.
NP: Also I will say that the opening itself is extremely unnecessary and might have been the worst offender of being a late script tacked on scene. It was especially annoying given that the opening credits are genuinely fantastic and functioned as an effective hook.
LG: Those credits probably have some of the greatest non-Wes Anderson uses of the Futura font I’ve seen, by which I mean the credits used the Futura font. Plus, the film uses the credits as a time to explain via montage that two years have passed, which I thought worked well. It’s simple and it’s pretty cheap, but I think it’s good.
NP: Yeah it really did a good job at conveying the setting and the mission to the audience without making it explicit. Too bad the rest of scenes in the first act are more heavy handed and direct.
LG: I would also like to point out that, in pulling from basically everywhere, this movie manages to pull off a mostly coherent visual palette. The sets clearly have a lot of work put into them, and barring a few moments of truly wonky CGI, it’s an altogether well-thought out location.
NP: The space sets and the costumes were just fine. They did have a nice assortment of color. It just suffers from this weird aesthetic choice I’ve noticed has been the case in the past 5 years with sci fi movies in depicting space. Like it’s tough to describe but just look at the designs for everything from the ship interiors to the tools they use to the costumes and space suits, and then look at any generic sci fi thing set in space from the last five years, and tell me that those designs all don’t just kinda blend together. It is all way too sterile and bright, and while it’s not a bad look, it’s just kinda bland.
LG: I want to bring up the performances for a second, because this cast is actually a thoroughly interesting bunch, even if they aren’t doing their best work.
NP: Yeah, some actors definitely emoted.
LG: David Oyelowo and Zhang Ziyi are doing their best to hold down the fort, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw carried her fair share of emotional moments. Other than that, though, the only other truly notable performance is Chris O’Dowd, who takes losing his whole arm very casually.
NP: Don’t forget Daniel Brühl who I am convinced just plays German guy in basically every movie he’s been in (unless its Captain America: Civil War, where he played angry vague Eastern European guy). But he plays a great German guy.
LG: Also, this movie is one of the most casually diverse major scifi projects to land in the past few years. People of color make up almost the entire cast, and everybody’s like, casually trilingual. Literally everyone is somewhat fluent in both Mandarin and English, which I thought was a positive touch.
NP: Until the German guy is having a fluent conversation entirely in Mandarin with Zhang Ziyi’s character, only to fall back on English instead of, y’know, German.
LG: See this is the fun part of leaning on tropes for 90 percent of your movie, because then the stuff you’re using fractures in minute ways and weird things happen. So, for instance, when you pull out the “Bilingual Character Angrily Shouts The Important Line In Their Native Language” trope, but it isn’t their native language, it’s noticeable.
Also literally everything that happened on Earth during this movie was pointless setup for the last ten seconds.
NP: Yeah the last 10 seconds was some tonal fucking wonkiness. Look these characters get a happy endi….no fuck you this is Cloverfield.
LG: Just when you thought it was safe to go back to your own dimension…turns out the B-plot was the entire planet getting invaded by S-tier kaiju that are the size of LITERAL MOUNTAINS. Enjoy!
NP: Yeah when you objectively think about the fact that those are clouds the monster popped out of. Sweet Jesus RIP Earth just leave the planet already.
LG: All-told, this is a thoroughly generic movie, but it’s fun-generic, like curly fries or Fast and Furious sequels.
NP: I don’t hate it, I don’t love it. I came, I saw, I shrugged.
LG: ow the edge
NP: Least its not Bright.