How's your night going? Mine's going pretty good. I just got done watching The Cloverfield Paradox on Netflix, which was not part of my plans for the evening. This article is dropping in the middle of the night without warning because apparently that's just how content is released now.
The trailer and immediate release date for this expansion of J. J. Abram's Cloverfield universe did come unexpectedly, but the rumor mill surrounding this project has been swirling around for months. Amongst those rumors was that the film would be titled "The God Particle" and that it would be released on 4/20, which is hilarious. The only real hint I saw that something this wild was going to happen came from Ava DuVernay on Twitter...
...and yeah, #FilmTwitter definitely did explode.
For those not familiar (or those that forgot), Cloverfield is a sci-fi thriller that released in theaters ten years ago, in '08. Two years ago, in 2016, we were treated with 10 Cloverfield Lane, a film that was thought (known?) to be related to the original, but the film certainly wasn't a traditional sequel or prequel. That project also had a less than traditional marketing campaign, with the title being revealed just a month or two before it appeared in theaters.
This time around, The Cloverfield Paradox dropped so close to the official announcement it surely set several records, but it does feel like a more traditional prequel. At least, as traditional as anything in this wild ride of a franchise can be.
Some spoilers ahead.
While the film does seem to showcase the catalyst for the events of the original film and the other... Cloverfield (see the tagline: "10 years ago some thing arrived, now find out why"), that story certainly takes a backseat to the other one this film is trying to tell. The underlying plot of monsters wreaking havoc on the world hasn't taken center-stage since the original, and that's part of what makes this franchise so unique.
In a world where humans are running out of resources, the crew of the Cloverfield space station (roll credits) endeavors to active the Shepard Particle Accelerator, a reactor that will provide the earth with all the sustainable energy they can handle. Of course, this magic bullet has to be fired in a way that makes an interesting movie, and in this department the film is an astounding success. My initial expectation throughout the first portion of the film was that the accelerator would ultimately fire successfully, causing an other worldly species to view our advancement as a threat or an opportunity (a common sci-fi trope).
I thought the film would give us elements of 10 Cloverfield Lane and the original Alien aboard the ship while we saw scenes mirroring those from the original Cloverfield with new light and perspective from the ground. While many of all of these are present in The Cloverfield Paradox, it didn't fit the mold of my expectations. The main focus of this story is what happens to the crew aboard the Cloverfield after an attempted firing of the Shepard accelerator causes their dimension to collide with another (lore expansion: multiverse theory is real here).
This resulted in an incredible product and a unique viewing experience. Sure, it plays fast and loose with theoretical physics, but who hasn't? Some of the narratives and the new rules (or lack thereof) create a few of the most interesting scenes and stories I've seen in a long time. The delivery played a huge part in keeping me guessing. The film almost felt like it was making itself up as it went along, which in most cases would be an insult, but here it really worked for me. Almost the entire time, I only knew as much as the main character, Ava (other than the few short scenes on the earth we get to see). Coupled with existing expectations about the franchise, this created a sort of sustained suspense without needing to rely heavily on a lot of the common thriller tools of the trade.
I'm sure some of the leaps in logic taken by the film don't really have conclusions or rationale that will ever be explained in canon, but that's okay. It may seem like a cop out to say "it's crazy science we don't fully understand so anything goes", but I don't really believe the film abuses that idea. Some might find elements of the application of the inter-dimensional collision extreme or out there, and some of them are, but the movie is also really good at nuance. Most of the characters feel human, there's no true antagonist (other than maybe the giant Kaiju at the end - I warned you about spoliers!), and the internal struggles Ava experiences about her family and regrets feel powerful and real.
This film is ironically different enough from the other entries in the franchise to be considered a true part of it. The idea of a franchise that explores a massive universe that crosses genres and tones and styles is so intriguing to me, and this one seems to be doing a great job. Though, I'm not convinced this was the plan from the start. What do you call reverse-engineering a film to make a franchise out of it? Is there a name for that? Anyways. The movie is great because it does "different" really well and with a purpose. I don't know how else to end this, it's very late. Goodnight everybody!
OH HEY REAL QUICK. I just skimmed through a few other reviews of this film and some of them are HARSH. So either it's way too late, I have terrible taste in movies, everyone else missed the point, everyone else takes things too seriously, or everyone else is a big old movie jerk. Maybe it's a little bit of everything. I'll leave you with my most successful Twitter joke in a long time. Enjoy.