WARNING: This article does contain spoilers regarding scenes connecting this film to the Cloverfield franchise
Superbowl Sunday this year was filled with the unexpected. The Eagles didn’t blow it, Dodge thought that using a speech about greatness and servitude by Martin Luther King Jr. to sell trucks would go well, and almost every ad was a Tide Ad, except for the brilliantly teased Crocodile Dundee trailer, which turned out to be a promotion for Australian tourism. Among these surprises, the most surprising may have been the announcement of The Cloverfield Paradox. The trailer suggested that this movie would connect the two previous installments, Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane, while also boasting a heavy
sci-fi thriller set in space. Most surprisingly, the trailer announced that the movie would be releasing “very soon”. As it turns out, “very soon” meant that the movie would be released on Netflix mere moments after the final seconds ticked off the clock, and the Eagles were declared the winners of the 52nd Annual Superbowl.
The movie opens on a husband and wife, Ava and Michael, stuck in traffic, discussing the wife’s opportunity to be launched into space on a mission to save the world from the current energy crisis. As expected, she accepts the offer, and we fast forward to the ship, where she and a crew of scientists and engineers from around the world are working on perfecting what seems to be a sort of particle accelerator that could produce sustainable energy for the earth. They currently have enough fuel for three more attempts at perfecting the device. After some adjustments and toiling, they are able to successfully fire up the machine, but it overloads, and next thing they know, they are no longer in view or transmission range of Earth. With no more information than this, they set out to repair the damages to their ship so that they can figure out where they are and how to get home.
At its core, The Cloverfield Paradox is a sci-fi space drama. There is a lot more to the character interactions and interpersonal conflict than there is scientific anomaly or disaster. I spoke to a friend who described it as “A very pleasant Event Horizon”. There was still death and peril, and as with any space-set sci-fi film, the intrigue lies in the creativity of the manner in which the characters are dispatched, and there is one particular scene in The Cloverfield Paradox which makes my top five in the way of creative space death. Most of the other occurrences in the movie, whether creative or underwhelming, unfortunately make very little sense, as if piggybacking off of the explanations of other space dramas, assuming that all viewers understand that anomalies in space just occur, no matter how nonsensical. Any attempt at explanation or allusion in the film is hollow, at best.
While watching The Cloverfield Paradox, I continually found myself waiting for some explanation or connection to the other Cloverfield movies. While Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane don’t exactly connect like pieces of a puzzle, the viewer can still come out of both movies feeling as though they ran parallel to one another. The Cloverfield Paradox, on the other hand, does not feel that way at all. This is because The Cloverfield Paradox, initially titled God Particle, was not initially intended to have anything to do with the Cloverfield franchise. Granted, 10 Cloverfield Lane started in much the same way. However, in this instance, the connection feels overly forced. The only actual connection in the movie occurs on the ground with Ava’s husband being thrust into the middle of an incident similar to the original Cloverfield movie. This storyline, however, is rarely visited, poorly established, and ultimately inconsequential to the rest of the film. They were, in fact, filmed for the sole purpose of connecting the God Particle script into the Cloverfield universe, and that’s exactly how it feels.
Even on its own, The Cloverfield Paradox struggles to stand on its own. Without the backing of Abrams and the Cloverfield name, God Particle may have landed a fair B movie following. However, as it was brought into the fold, an interesting dynamic was put into place. Immediately, once this was associated as a Cloverfield movie, it garnered attention. Fans of the franchise are instantly drawn in, clamoring for more details and Easter Eggs, allowing some insight into the film that kicked off this franchise ten years ago. However, with that interest comes expectation. With the Cloverfield name, the movie sets an expectation for not only production quality, but for how it actually expands on the franchise. The Cloverfield Paradox easily fails to meet this expectation. Therefore, had the movie not been associated with the Cloverfield franchise, it may not have pulled as many viewers, but it also would not have set those viewers up for disappointment.
What did you think of The Cloverfield Paradox? Were you pleased with the film overall? Did you feel it met your expectations and standards for a Cloverfield movie? What direction would you like to see further installments go from here? Let us know in the comments and join in the discussion!