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The UnPopular Opinion: The Cloverfield Paradox

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Since the original CLOVERFIELD aired it's first mysterious trailer, we have seen two additional films join the franchise. Connected tangentally or directly, these films embrace producer J.J. Abrams' mystery box format and have told some truly unique science fiction tales wrapped up in familiar themes and ideas. While 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE did away with the found footage format and told a story that was both thrilling and exciting. When Julius Onah's GOD PARTICLE was revealed to be THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX, many fans immediately jumped on board. When Netflix suprised everyone and debuted the feature film on their streaming service the same night as the Super Bowl, critics were skeptical as to the quality of the film if it was going from big screens to small. The consensus of the finished product was that Paramount was dumping it before it could bomb in theaters across the country. Bringing in half the viewers of David Ayers' BRIGHT, THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX was both a critical and commercial flop. While it may not have been a masterpiece, I firmly feel that the space station thriller is a worthy horror film wrapped in scifi like ALIEN or EVENT HORIZON.

We all know the iconic tagline "in space, no one can hear you scream" which is both prescient and haunting in it's simplicity. Films set on space stations capitalize on our inate human desire for exploration but also tap into the claustrophobic thought of being trapped in a vessel, mere inches from the frozen vacuum outside. ALIEN took that horro and embodied it in a creature whereas EVENT HORIZON and the recent LIFE make it about an infectious or madness itself. THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX takes all of those elements and combines them with the nature of reality itself and takes the concept of parallel universes to a disturbing new level. The horrific results of crossing into another dimension give THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX a disturbing and scary conceit that is amplified by a top notch cast of actors.

The Cloverfield Paradox, Netflix, The UnPopular Opinion, Daniel Bruhl, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Horror, Science Fiction, Cloverfield, JJ Abrams, CHris O'Dowd

The ensemble international cast of Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth DebickiAksel Hennie, Chris O'Dowd, John OrtizDavid Oyelowo and Zhang Ziyi take their place amongst some of the best science fiction crews of recent memory. Each is given a small but vital side to the story before they begin getting picked off one by one. Led by Gugu Mbatha-Raw in one of her best roles to date, the cast all manage to come across as realistic creations without falling into the complete cliche of the genre. Sure, there are moments in the film where Daniel Bruhl and Aksel Hennie feel like the mad villains of other space station movies, but the subvert expectations when their fates do not meet with what you thought would happen. Chris O'Dowd seems like he will be the typical comic relief of the film but the special effects used to realize the body horror he is subjected to easily steal the show and turn him from a rote stereotype into one of the most memorable aspects of the film.

Julius Onah, who only has one other film to his credit, does an admirable job of handling this big budget film. With a high amount of effects work, Onah distinguishes a visual style and tone in THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX that is his own as well as well within the tried and true studio system. Onah has the mentality and style of an indie filmmaker but the aptitude for working within the constraints of a budget. That puts him in company with so many directors today who are being courted for superhero and franchise fare which I have no doubt Onah could handle after seeing this movie. Despite debuting on Netflix, THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX looks and feels like a theatrical experience. The score and visual depiction of space and space travel in this movie felt no different than THE MARTIAN which clearly cost a lot more than this movie did. To achieve equal footing with a marquee project like that from a visual and scope standpoint is a massive achievement.

Earlier, I compared THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX to EVENT HORIZON, which may be unfair. Paul W.S. Anderson's EVENT HORIZON was cheesy and schlocky whereas THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX is more of a thinking man's scifi. While both spout science jargon to make themselves seem more realistic, there is an air of legitimacy to this film that other movies do not have. It feels grounded in what a true space mission would entail and combines that with the high concept horror of what could go wrong with an endeavor that messes with the infintessimal elements that make up our universe. Could a particle collider destroy the barriers in space time? Possibly, but I doubt the results would be quite the way they end up on screen in this movie. Taking a cue from such legendary entertainment as The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror, THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX is a brilliant what if scenario of filmmaking and one that you rarely find in franchise filmmaking.

THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX also manages to directly tie into both of the previous CLOVERFIELD movies in a way that answers how those events took place and opens the wide open imaginations of filmmakers to continue the franchise. There were rumors that the upcoming horror film OVERLORD and even John Krasinski's A QUIET PLACE were going to be connected to the CLOVERFIELD mythos and both could have worked thanks to this film. What started as an anthology project has instead turned into one of the most unique franchises in existence: one where stories can be told with small fibers of connectivity rather than direct character or narrative focus. That would not have happened had this film not drawn those lines together.

The Cloverfield Paradox, Netflix, The UnPopular Opinion, Daniel Bruhl, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Horror, Science Fiction, Cloverfield, JJ Abrams, CHris O'Dowd

Whether you buy into the Bad Robot school of marketing or not, THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX is a distinctively clever film in a franchise that has thus far explored very different sub-genres. Unlike the found footage CLOVERFIELD or the escape thriller 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX takes big budget science fiction, claustrophobic horror, and franchise building creativity to a whole new level. With a star-making turn by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, this is a movie that costs you nothing on top of your monthly Netflix fee and will entertain you more than most horror or science fictions films released theatrically over the last couple of years. Despite a headline-grabbing marketing push, this movie deserves more recognition for the talented cast, well-executed direction, and clever connection to it's predecessors. So if you are without anything to stream tonight, check out THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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