San Junipero's Gugu Mbatha-Raw Is a Bright Spot in The Cloverfield Paradox

Hamilton looking up, stressed
Terra Necessary

Like a surprise kaiju attack, Netflix dropped The Cloverfield Paradox (the third sequel to J.J. Abrams’s Cloverfield) after last Sunday's Super Bowl game, with the only marketing beforehand being a commercial during the half time show.

The movie throws you into a world caught in a severe energy crisis, and a family caught in a very personal one. Hamilton, played by the talented Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is forced to choose between participating in a space research mission that might solve the crisis, or stepping out to stay with her husband after their family was ripped apart by tragedy. Since this is a space drama, her choice is fairly clear. The mission is attempting to test a particle accelerator that will create endless power for the planet.  Unfortunately, when they are successful, it causes a terrible break in the rules of reality, with dire consequences for both those on the mission and those back home on Earth.

The clever marketing is a trademark of the series. The first film, Cloverfield, first appeared as mysterious choppy ads with no title or identifying characteristics. Those ads lead into a huge alternate reality game, involving fake drilling companies, imaginary marketing for fantasy slushies, references to the Lost mythology, and different characters' MySpace pages (...it was 2008). The found-footage movie had nods to those meta stories, but wasn’t bogged down by winks and nods.

The second movie, 2016's 10 Cloverfield Lane, also tapped into the viral campaign. It saw an update to the website of Tagruato (the phony company responsible for making the fictional drink Slusho, seen across many Abram’s works), keeping the tie-ins unknown. A trailer was abruptly dropped in late January with little buzz beforehand that another movie was even happening, with a premier just shy of 2 months later. With the dramatic drop of this third part, Twitter is already prepping themselves for the rest of the series.

The movie has met mixed reviews. While an interesting addition into the Cloverfield universe, The Cloverfield Paradox has some issues standing on its own feet as a movie, something both its predecessors excelled at. It takes you into a variety of mind-blowing horrors, using the setting of the ship to make you feel disjointed and trapped. The acting is superb, and the cast is great, containing such talent (and faces familiar to nerds) as Daniel Brühl (Inglourious Basterds, Captain America: Civil War), Chris O'Dowd (The I.T. Crowd), Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), and more. They do a lot with what they have, but often, what they have isn’t entirely clear. A story about the nature of reality is always one that’s hard to balance, and while a good try, this film just doesn’t quite make it.

Still, The Cloverfield Paradox is fun and scratches the itch of those who invested in the alternate reality game, adding some interesting layers to old hints.

The fourth installment, a period piece set during World War II currently entitled Overlord, is due out in October of this year. Who knows what questions it will answer, and which it’ll create! But until then, check out The Cloverfield Paradox, streaming now on Netflix!

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