Super Bowl LII’s thrilling finish wasn’t the only surprise of Sunday night, as Netflix enticed millions of football fans by dropping a preview for a new movie that debuted on the streaming site immediately after the Philadelphia Eagles finished off their win over the New England Patriots.
Netflix premiered a movie trailer for The Cloverfield Paradox, the third film in a loosely-connected sci-fi trilogy from producer J.J. Abrams, during one of the very expensive commercial breaks between the action of last night’s game on NBC. Of course, Netflix was far from the only movie studio or streaming service to promote new programming during the Super Bowl.
But the surprising twist from Netflix was the fact The Cloverfield Paradox would actually be available to stream as soon as the game ended. It was a first-of-its-kind move from the streaming giant, which may have taken its inspiration from the traditional TV networks that have used the post-Super Bowl time slot to promote new TV series or special episodes (such as last night’s long-awaited This Is Us installment on NBC) for years.
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The move was made that much more surprising by the fact that Netflix had not previously confirmed its acquisition of The Cloverfield Paradox from Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, which produced the movie. The streaming site had been rumored to be interested in purchasing the film, which was previously called God’s Particle and reportedly saw its release delayed multiple times. (Never a good sign for a movie.)
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So after all of that, is the movie even any good? Well, so far, critics don’t think so.
Though The Cloverfield Paradox has only been available online for less than 24 hours, the movie is already being panned by movie critics, receiving a paltry 12% score on the reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes (out of a total of just 25 reviews, as of Monday afternoon). The movie’s score on Metacritic, another online review aggregator, is a slightly more healthy 40 (out of 100).
But the film is undoubtedly receiving its share of scathing reviews, with critics calling it a “trainwreck” and “a bust of a movie.” Vanity Fair‘s Joanna Robinson sums it up: “The Cloverfield Paradox reaches for so many outlandish twists, turns, and sci-fi tropes that it forgets to build the one thing that genre stories of its kind need: believable and sympathetic human characters.”
Yet Netflix doesn’t always care about the opinions of professional movie reviewers when making decisions on original programming. The company recently forged ahead with a sequel for the fantasy thriller Bright despite the fact that the first movie (which Netflix paid a reported $90 million to acquire) similarly bombed with critics. However, by Nielsen’s measurements (which Netflix disavows), enough Netflix users seem to have watched Bright to justify further investment.
Will that be the case for The Cloverfield Paradox? It’s too soon to tell (and Netflix never releases viewership statistics), but the 62% of the movie’s audience reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are positive, while the film currently has a rating of 7.0 (out of 10) from users on Metacritic.
The film and its two predecessors, 2008’s Cloverfield and 2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, are share the same producer (Abrams) as well as a somewhat mysterious monster-movie narrative connection. Each of the two previous films have generally positive Rotten Tomatoes ratings, and they fared reasonably well at the box office ($170 million in global gross for Cloverfield and $110 million for 10 Cloverfield Lane) for lower-budget movies.
Netflix has not said how much it paid to acquire streaming rights for The Cloverfield Paradox, so as always, it will be difficult to judge whether or not the streaming giant’s purchase was a prudent one. But it definitely succeeded in generating in-game Super Bowl buzz.