The Cloverfield Paradox is a rough assemblage of a variety of fantastic influences, that fails to riff on what makes each of its influences interesting. There are elements of Alien, Another Earth, The Europa Report, Fringe, and Coherence, along with the painfully obvious script revisions that incorporate it into the Cloverfield universe. It manages to competently ape all of its influences well enough to advance the story, but it only ever seems satisfied with mimicry.
It co-opts the fear and paranoia within the crew from Alien, giving a crew member an ulterior motive, but never seems interested in seeding the audience with any uncertainty. There’s no sense of a mystery here. It would have been better served if a crew member had simply swapped with their parallel universe counterpart, and not told anyone about it, setting about on whatever secret task they might have while trying to fit in. How interesting that could have been!
The crew dynamics and problem-solving were not very interesting, in that there wasn’t a lot of reasoning or discussion that went into decision making. A secret faction formed to complete a task they believed would truly help, but I was never clear on what that was and why it wasn’t sanctioned by the rest of the crew.
The thing I remember most about The Europa Report is that it was the first space station-type movie that I had seen whose crew made perfectly sensible decisions nearly all of the time. They discussed them, and came to logical conclusions. The Cloverfield Paradox could have also capitalized on its crew of world-class geniuses with scenes like this, but it chose to err on the side of silliness and intensity, with crew shouting down each other or otherwise becoming unreasonably fearful (the doctor who can’t cut open a corpse??) which made the entire movie feel extremely messy.
Perhaps worst of all, the movie does almost nothing with the parallel universe concept. All it grants us is an additional character. It toys with the consequences of meeting yourself, accessing a different version of your life, but it never becomes anything more than a thought experiment for one of the characters. Fringe is a sci-fi show founded on the protagonist’s dilemma: a brilliant scientist loses his son, so he creates a portal to a parallel universe, where he steals that universe’s version of his son, profoundly altering the balance of both universes simultaneously. Coherence simply duplicates friends at a dinner party and sets about making them distrust one another. Another Earth posits that there is a second, slightly different version of Earth that we can travel to, and uses this to explore grief and regret.
The fact that The Cloverfield Paradox took one of the most philosophically interesting concepts in science - the parallel universe, the parallel you - and chose NOT to duplicate an existing character is a perfect distillation of how this movie misses the mark on what makes its influences so fuckin fascinating. The Cloverfield Paradox also fails to come to a satisfying conclusion on the ramifications of going to another Earth to see how life could have been different for you. The fact that the protagonist concludes she’s going to go to this Earth, where another version of her already is, and live there forever is wild. What will she do? And what about her husband? She doesn’t know, and neither do we, because that decision makes no fuckin sense.
Lastly, it doesn’t even succeed in its Cloverfield references. The reason the Cloverfield creature rose from the depths is already explained in the extensive meta narrative around the original Cloverfield, taking place across websites, and even a manga. This movie retcons that (admittedly stupid) stuff. Why…did they do that? The ARG was a big part of what made the original so successful.
They even revisited the Cloverfield ARG to an alarmingly intense extent in 10 Cloverfield Lane, with personal and company websites (typical Bad Robot stuff), culminating in an unadvertised local Craigslist ad to sell some old silver owned by (Jon Goodman’s character) Howard’s ex-wife who FUCKING RESPONDS TO EMAIL INQUIRIES AND THEN JON GOODMAN LEAVES AN IN-CHARACTER MESSAGE ON THE PERSON-WHO-FOUND-ITS PHONE
So what does The Cloverfield Paradox do? It puts a crackpot conspiracy theorist on our screens with his Twitter handle, “Paradox_Is_Real”, as prominent as his name. Any excited clue hunter who knows Bad Robot’s game, lookin for that sweet ARG, would go to Paradox_Is_Real and find it’s a real Twitter account - with no bio, no avatar, and no tweets.
I mean at this point, I’m not surprised, and that’s The Cloverfield Paradox’s greatest sin: it fails to surprise in literally every way.