MOVIE REVIEW

Over the past couple of months, a game has been playing out between audiences hungry for the film we now know as The Cloverfield Paradox and the studios behind the making of it. Now, Paramount and Netflix have fulfilled their eventual endgame, surprising fans with a release date being revealed just moments after the film's fate was confirmed. While this movie is not the best entry in the universe it has made its home in, it's still a welcome addition to a canon that just might continue to pay off into the future.

Here's what the surprise movie is about. With the world in the midst of a global energy crisis, a space station is created in order to conduct top-secret research deemed too dangerous to be done on Earth. After years of firing its particle accelerator, the crew of the Cloverfield space station seem to have finally made their breakthrough... but at a terrible cost. Now, with a situation wholly unknown to its crew, and their situation becoming more dire as time marches on, this team of scientists is racing a clock to solve some serious issues, and they just might tear each other apart before finding a solution.

There are some advantages and drawbacks that come with the Cloverfield name, and The Cloverfield Paradox definitely has both. Much more in line with the first film from 2008, we follow a group of characters who are banded together in a tense situation. But the entire experience is a positive one, as the film tells a tense sci-fi story that truly puts it cast through the paces. And with an all-star cast that includes Daniel Bruhl, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Elizabeth Debicki, David Oyelowo, Chris O'Dowd, and Zhang Ziyi, there's an ensemble that helps keep the wheels in motion, with a perpetual motion that never lets up.

At the heart of it all is Gugu Mbatha-Raw's functional lead, Ava, who provides the heart and soul of The Cloverfield Paradox. While her backstory has elements to it that are a bit routine, Mbatha-Raw never treats them as such. It's her nuance that actually makes the entire film work, as without Ava's journey, the narrative wouldn't be as compelling. Watching Ava struggle with the quandary of her home life versus the mission to save humanity is what some of the best sci-fi is all about. If it wasn't for that very human anchor in the film's structure, the rest of The Cloverfield Paradox would spin off into space.

With a running time that clocks in under two hours, The Cloverfield Paradox uses its duration efficiently, mixing thrills and heart into a cocktail that makes for an effectively surprising film. However, there's one key portion of the film's story that's been teased in its advertising that manages to fall just a tad flat. With the promises of explaining how the Cloverfield universe came about, The Cloverfield Paradox attempts to do just that with some light exposition in its first act. But besides that blink-and-you-miss-it moment, the film really doesn't go too deep into tying this movie to the original movie, or in placing the three Cloverfield movies together. This doesn't sink the entire film, as the portion of the story that must have come from the God Particle storyline written by Oren Uziel makes up for the film's narrative meat.

The Cloverfield Paradox, at its minimal worst, is an example of what happens when a movie doesn't fully integrate itself into a franchise as well as it could. But with the majority of the narrative running at breakneck pace through a pretty effective (if familiar) story, it's hard to notice until you've reached the end of the film, and even by then, it's more of a head scratcher than a vase smasher. Through the grace of Netflix, The Cloverfield Paradox has officially pulled the most Cloverfield move in the book, as it's gone from trailer to release in the shortest window possible with a surprise release. Let's just hope that if Paramount and Netflix are looking to keep the franchise alive in the years to come, they do so with a little more coherence.

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