James Hibberd
February 05, 2018 at 11:01 AM EST

So, maybe there’s a good reason the new Cloverfield sequel went straight to Netflix instead getting a theatrical release as originally planned.

The streaming company shocked viewers by announcing Sunday during the Super Bowl that the mysterious third film in the J.J. Abrams-produced sci-fi franchise, The Cloverfield Paradox, was going to premiere right after the big game.

Yet critics who stayed up to watch the film (directed by Julius Onah and starring an ensemble cast including Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo, and Elizabeth Debicki) weren’t very impressed. Paramount’s space-station-set thriller has currently only scored 12 percent on Rotten Tomatoes among the early reviews, several of which were pretty scathing.

First, EW’s own Darren Franich weighed in last night with a quick summary judgment:

And now here are some fuller reports:

The Guardian: “The Cloverfield Paradox is an unholy mess … Right from the start, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this was a troubled production. There are unexplained plot elements, underwritten characters and messy editing choices that’ll make viewers wonder if they missed something in the blink of an eye … As the film bumbles from one confusingly mounted scene to the next, disappointment turns to boredom … What the film does manage well, aside from some nifty production design, is a string of effective shock moments from the disappearance of a planet to some nasty business with a bunch of worms.”

Hollywood Reporter: “A trainwreck of a sci-fi flick bent on extending a franchise that should have died a peaceful death almost exactly one decade ago … A theatrical release would likely have been disastrous for this dud; with any luck, it will be forgotten amid tomorrow’s hangovers.”

Forbes: “At some moments, it feels like The Cloverfield Paradox can make the same case that Lost did all the time: sure, the plot doesn’t make much sense, but it’s really about the characters and their emotional journeys. Except this is a movie that can’t even make its mind up about that … The actors do a solid job nonetheless. Mbatha-Raw proves that she could be the next Sigourney Weaver if she’s ever in an Aliens rip-off that doesn’t let her down.”

Collider: “The Cloverfield Paradox is a tepid, predictable, and largely uninteresting sci-fi film where dumb characters do dumb things and bad things happen because the script needs them to. It’s a movie that’s not particularly scary, interesting, or deep, but it does have good actors performing admirably … the movie is nowhere near as good as the original Cloverfield or 10 Cloverfield Lane. It’s not even as good as some of the weaker episodes of Black Mirror.” 

Thrillist: “While there are a handful of nifty sequences and good performances overall, this feels like a blown-out pilot for one of those Syfy series you always mean to get around to but never do …If this movie, either as The God Particle or The Cloverfield Paradox played in theaters it would have been roundly booed by critics and audiences alike. But as a surprise present on Netflix, it’s absolutely more than serviceable in a “bad movie night” way. I had a blast making fun of this, and I didn’t spend anything on gas money or tickets.”

The audience reviews on RT, however, were more kind, giving the film a modestly okay 63 percent score.

Netflix bosses recently told shareholders that critics slamming their original sci-fi movie Bright were “disconnected” and that their (top secret) internal data shows what viewers actually like is rather different than what critics say they should like. “Critics are an important part of the artistic process but they’re pretty disconnected from the commercial prospects of a film,” said Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos. “The way we look at it is [that] people are watching this movie and loving it and that is the measure of success. If critics get behind it or don’t, that’s a select group of social media influencers talking to a select audience.”

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