There's a story to be told, maybe five or ten years down the line, about how The Cloverfield Paradox began with a reasonably good idea, had another few ideas thrown into the mix, a few more piled on top of it, an inexperienced director who didn't know how to parse out the script, and a major studio who saw a streaming service eager for content and ready to show everyone that a marketing strategy wasn't needed to release a film.
Cloverfield has become a byword for unusual release strategies - the first one benefitting from the use of alternate-reality games and viral marketing, the second effectively being airdropped into cinemas, and now the third arriving onto Netflix without so much as a warning. In the first two instances, the films were competent enough that the gimmicky release strategy didn't have much to do with their success. For The Cloverfield Paradox, however, the whole thing stinks to outer space of a troubled production that was going to fail big - really, really big - if it had a normal release strategy.
When you drill right down to it, The Cloverfield Paradox has some fascinating concepts at work. The problem is that they're hurled together at top-speed and the result is a freakish mess that three - count them, THREE - editors couldn't sort out. The film is largely set aboard Cloverfield Station, a last-ditch attempt by several nations to solve Earth's energy crisis and prevent global war. When the thingamajig particle accelerator fires, they're sent into a parallel universe where... well, it's hard to explain. Suffice to say, you have elements such as Chris O'Dowd's dismembered arm, lots of worms, various plot-twists you can see coming from miles off, and some clearly tacked-on scenes that tenuously tie the film into the Clover-verse.
The ensemble cast, made up of Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O'Dowd, Elisabeth Debicki, John Ortiz, Daniel Bruhl, David Oyelowo and Ziyi Zhang, do their best to pump some interest into it, but the fact is that both the direction and the screenplay utterly fail their efforts. While Julius Onah doesn't have a workable script to begin with, the direction he puts on screen is so bland and forgettable that even if he did, it's doubtful he'd do anything exciting with it. As mentioned, the screenplay by Oren Uziel is so littered with half-baked ideas that it never seems to execute one of them correctly. Moreover, the shifts between them are so jarring that you're not sure whether it's a straight-up sci-fi film, a mystery film, a horror, or a comedy. All that remains is a jumbled mess of a film that should have never been released in the first place, even if it did have the Cloverfield tag attached to it.
Netflix may hail this as a new way of releasing films, that the typical marketing and pre-screening of films is the old way and the new way is to go directly to the audience, but it's not actually new at all. If you keep an eye on cinemas at this time of year, studios and distributors tend to dump out the films they don't know what to do with. They'd typically come and from cinemas and be quietly forgotten about.
Now, it seem studios are just funnelling these films into Netflix instead.