Netflix

The Cloverfield Paradox

paradox

There is an energy crisis on Earth. In an effort to come up with an alternative energy source, a group of scientists travel to a space station orbiting earth. With the use of a particle accelerator the group attempts to create infinite energy. After two years of testing the crew nears the end of their experiment, as they are almost out of fuel. On one of the final attempts something happens that rattles the entire space station. The crew survives only to discover that the Earth has vanished, and they may be dealing with what conspiracy theorists call The Cloverfield Paradox.

This is the third installment of the Cloverfield franchise, produced by J.J. Abrams. While the first two were said to be part of the same cinematic universe, they are really standalone films. The Cloverfield Paradox is meant to be the thread that ties all three films together. The filmmakers came up with a relatively simple way to explain what monsters and aliens were doing on Earth in the previous films, while also leaving room for the rumored fourth installment. It comes down to one thing; the particle accelerator that was meant to create infinite energy instead ripped open the space-time continuum. This leads to time travel, people and things from one reality being thrown into another, and all sorts of mayhem.

The plot of this film has many highs and lows. One of the high points is that the characters are interesting and entertaining to watch. While we only get in-depth character development for Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the filmmakers still give the audience a good sense of who each character is once they are all together in the space station. The internal and external conflicts of the characters are very well done. Each character deals with their own issues when they learn about the movement between worlds. It makes each character complicated and shows the duality of human nature; someone may do something perceived as evil, but they may believe they are doing the right thing. Another high point is how the film explains the rip in space-time and the negative effects that follow. It allows the filmmakers to create some excellent twists, turns, and shocking imagery. Unfortunately, this also contributes to one of the low points of the film. The rip in the space-time continuum gives the filmmakers the freedom to do a lot of amazing sci-fi effects and incorporate monsters, aliens, and anything else they can think of to create the Cloverfield universe. But these things still have to make sense. Virtually everything that happens surrounding the character Mundy (Chris O’Dowd) after the rip occurs simply does not make sense. It creates some intense and visually interesting cinematic moments, but there is no logic surrounding them. While watching the film audiences may enjoy these scenes, but then afterwards they will be scratching their heads at the nonsensical events.

The entire cast does an excellent job. Everyone from Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) providing comedic relief as Mundy to Daniel Bruhl (Inglorious Basterds) giving us someone to generally dislike as Schmidt. The shining star of this film is Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Black Mirror) as Hamilton. Hamilton is such a compelling character that goes through the struggles surrounding everything that happens on the space station. At the same time she is battling her own personal issues that are exacerbated by the rip in the space-time continuum. Mbatha-Raw portrays both sides of Hamilton in a way that makes audiences instantly empathize with her. Elizabeth Debicki (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Everest) also shines as the mysterious Jensen. In many ways the struggles that Debicki’s character goes through are similar to Mbatha-Raw’s character. Debicki brings a lot of intensity to her performance, making it quite memorable.

The Cloverfield films are known for being intense, exciting, and filled with sci-fi action. The special effects of this film are stunning. The third installment likely has the largest amount of CGI (considering it primarily takes place in space), but it doesn’t feel like you are watching CGI. This is always a sign that the effects are very well done. Another thing these films are known for is having unique marketing campaigns. Cloverfield had months of marketing, but much of the plot was kept secret. 10 Cloverfield Lane was only announced one month before the release date, again being shrouded in secrecy. The Cloverfield Paradox, as most of America learned, had its first trailer released during the 2018 Superbowl. What made this so shocking is that viewers learned the film would be released to stream on Netflix immediately following the game. This unique marketing campaign definitely made the film stand out, and I’m sure thousands of fans rushed to stream the film as soon as it was available. Despite the success of the marketing, I can’t help but feel that a sci-fi film with this fan base and with these special effects would have been better served by being viewed in theaters on a big screen.

The Cloverfield Paradox is a worthy addition to the franchise and does a lot to connect the films, but it is also the weakest of the three films. It holds a lot of the same intensity and excitement fans have come to expect from the franchise, making it fun to watch. It also has an all-star cast with stellar performances. Where the film loses me a bit is how the filmmakers seem to use the multiple-universe idea as a way to throw random events into the plot that make no sense. If those scenes were removed or altered to be a bit more logucal, then the film would have been closer to the same level as the rest of the franchise. While I find myself a bit underwhelmed by The Cloverfield Paradox, it still makes me look forward to what else they can do with the franchise.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10

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I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House

A young nurse gets a new job caring for an elderly horror author. The nurse, who is afraid of everything, is unfamiliar with the author’s work. This includes her most famous book about a woman named Polly. The nurse moves in with her charge to provide around the clock care. As time passes for the nurse living in the elderly woman’s home, it becomes more and more clear there may be someone (or something) else in the home with them.

This is the second film by writer/director Oz Perkins I have seen this year, the first being The Blackcoat’s Daughter. While I loved his previous film, this one left me feeling underwhelmed and unsatisfied. The essential premise is a nurse going to live with an elderly horror author to take care of her. The problem is that this nurse is terrified of everything. She can’t even get through the first chapter of one of the books the horror author wrote. On the first night living in the author’s house the nurse has a small experience with what may be a ghost, but then there aren’t any other happenings for almost a year. There is an interesting idea in this plot. The problem is that the story is underdeveloped, and the primary focus is on the house rather than the characters.

The main issue I have with this film is the writing. While the monologues are beautifully written and interesting, there is just too much dead space throughout the rest of the film. The only character that really has any lines is the nurse, which leaves a lot of time in between any speaking parts. It also means that the main character primarily talks to herself. The film ends up feeling one-dimensional and lacks any true depth to keep the audience interested. Perkins is known for leaving some aspects of his films ambiguous, which worked well in The Blackcoat’s Daughter, but in this film things were a bit too ambiguous. The “why” of what is happening is left unclear, and it felt like hints were scattered throughout the film that never came to a satisfying conclusion. This just adds to the somewhat empty feeling of the film.

One thing Perkins did better with was the style of the film. It felt unique in that much of the film consists of the inner monologue of the lead character. The film was very visually interesting, using light and shadows, as well as some beautiful blurred effects. The set of the house is also gorgeous. It often times feels like the house is its own character during the film, and it is actually one of the more well-developed aspects of the film. This unfortunately seemed to be where all the focus of the filmmaker’s efforts went. The film is quite stunning, but the lack of substance makes me wish this had been made as a short consisting of about thirty minutes as opposed to a feature length film.

Because there were so few speaking parts in the film it is very difficult for me to truly judge the acting. Ruth Wilson (The Affair, The Lone Ranger) starred as the nurse, Lily. I know Wilson is a good actress from her other work, but her performance in this role gave the impression that she didn’t put much effort into it. The way the character is written is partly the problem. The fact she is afraid of everything and spoke like an 80-year-old woman created a very unrealistic character. I couldn’t help but cringe when she said things like “Oh, heavens no.” The character is supposed to be in her late twenties, and as someone that is the same age it is hard to imagine a single person my age who speaks like that (no matter how timid they are). The highlight of Wilson’s performance is the monologue she recites at the beginning of the film, and that is also the highlight of the entire film.

As a whole I am vastly underwhelmed by I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House. It is stylish and beautiful, but lacked the substance to make it a complete story. The film is also plagued with unrealistic dialogue and underdeveloped characters. I know Perkins can do amazing work, so I look forward to seeing what he does in the future. This is just a bit of a stumble on his road to becoming a successful writer/directer.

OVERALL RATING: 4.5/10