The real paradox? Are we lowering our standards because we're viewing at home?
OK, Neflix. You have our attention.
I can't well review a new theatrical release this week (alas, “50 Shades Freed” screens for critics after our deadline) without acknowledging the enormous alien life form in the room.
Yes, Netflix pulled a Beyonce/Radiohead with its Super Bowl ad promoting the heretofore-under-wraps latest entry in J.J. Abrams' loosely connected “Cloverfield” series.
And then, plot twist, it was dropping on Netflix right after the game! No months-long marketing push, just a trailer drop, then a movie drop, completely bypassing theaters and firing a huge shot in the streaming wars.
As movie marketing stunts go, “The Cloverfield Paradox” is unprecedented. As movies go, it's got too much precedent, derived from a mishmash of bits from far-better sci-fi offerings.
It borrows a lot from a number of sci-fi thriller greats, notably “Alien,” “Event Horizon” and “The Thing.” It also reminded me of a not-great sci-fi, sharing an obnoxious proclivity for Dutch-angle shots with “Battlefield Earth.”
But let's highlight some positives. This is the second sister film (sequel doesn't really apply) to follow 2008's “Cloverfield,” an inventive found-footage flick that used a terrifying alien attack as backdrop. Eight years later, the brilliant, underrated “10 Cloverfield Lane” took a survivalist premise and tied it to the larger universe that's becoming the Cloverfield franchise.
This is a brilliant concept when it works. It doesn't work for me much at all with “The Cloverfield Paradox,” but let's hope that doesn't derail the series.
In short, I found this tale of a space-station crew testing a device that could end Earth's energy crisis to have some great moments, but largely suffering from being too derivative and, on occasion, barely comprehensible. It also has a great cast of actors who deserve more attention but suffer from generally poor character development.
So I didn't like it, like a lot of critics. No biggie. See it for yourself.
But this raises a larger point and some concerns. “Paradox” has its share of online supporters who say critics are dumb and don't know how to have fun.
But, I have to ask, are we lowering those standards because we didn't pay $12 to see this in a theater? If it had been more successful in what it was going for, this would have been a hell of a lot of fun in a theater.
Film distribution is definitely going to continue to change, but we should be careful to say goodbye to the theater model. Our standards may go with it.