I woke up this morning to news that the third instalment in the Cloverfield franchise had been both announced and released in its entirety on Netflix. I watched it in the evening and now I’m tapping out this review on my phone before I go to bed. It’s been a wonderfully surprising 24 hours. My head is still reeling from the mental whiplash that is the final scene of The Cloverfield Paradox but I’ll get to that later.
I’m aware that the shock-and-awe of its immediate release has charmed me into holding a considerably more favourable impression for what is easily the weakest film of the franchise despite The Cloverfield Paradox forming the nucleus around which the other films can now orbit.
Speaking of orbit here’s the plot paragraph: A team of scientists and Chris O’Dowd are operating an experimental particle accelerator aboard a space ship in an attempt to solve the Earth’s energy crisis. I need now only add that this film is an ‘adventure thriller with supernatural elements’ and I’m sure you can tell the experiment does not go to plan.
Here’s my Twitter review paragraph: The Cloverfield Paradox is a messy sci fi thriller about a particle accelerator in space that crashes together scripts from Sunshine, Alien, Event Horizon and my second favourite film of all time Coherence into a grey gooey putty that patches together Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane at the expense of its own story.
I bloody loved it.
But then my third favourite film of all time is the original Cloverfield, an 85-minute intimate, little story about a giant monster rampaging through New York City. It was short and focused with a specific story to tell. Much like the found-footage ground-floor perspective that it was shot from, the film teased the audience with the origins of the monster. Where did it come from? Don’t know. What is it? Don’t know. Does it die at the end? Don’t know. Does it work on every level for me? Yes. Yes it does.
And honestly that’s where it could have ended.
Producer JJ Abrams then went about buying up scripts, working with directors to adapt the stories to fit into the Clover-verse. But unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with its cross-over characters in a shared world following a clear sequential timeline, the second film of the franchise, 10 Cloverfield Lane, shared none of those things. It had a similar vibe but that was it. At the time it was said to exist in the “same multi-verse but a different timeline” which obviously made no sense whatsoever. It was a distinct world in which its New York City had not been ravaged by a giant monster.
This changes with The Cloverfield Paradox. It’s a bold and reckless move to try and put the origin story into the third film in the franchise. It’s entirely driven by marketing of course but for me it really works. But I know that I am in the already thin overlapping wedge in the vein diagram of ‘People Who Love Cloverfield‘ and ‘People Who Love Puzzle Stories’. Puzzle stories being stories with fragmented parts that come together as much in articles and forum posts than they come together in the script or on the screen (LOST, Twin Peaks or Donnie Darko).
The Cloverfield Paradox works for me for what it does to augment and compliment Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane. As a standalone film it’s broken in many ways. The characters are cookie-cutter, the supernatural elements have all been done before and done better before. The Clover-verse elements are brutally shoe-horned into the film entirely “off-ship” so it comes off as uneven. The failing of the particle accelerator seeds the madness in Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane but it’s undeniable that Paradox would be a more competent film without the burden. But then it would be infinitely less interesting to me and it wouldn’t get away with a fundamentally silly final scene.
All of this said I’m still going to pretend that Cloverfield is a prequel to Pacific Rim. I’d explain why but I’ll save that for another party that I ruin with my chat about giant monsters and giant robots.
Spoiler warning for a series of gifs and jpegs that will spoil all the films above.
The monster from Cloverfield, revealed in the DVD commentary to be a mere baby lost and confused and lashing out as a result:
The monster from the final scene in Cloverfield Paradox which is clearly the mama or papa monster:
Seemingly by accident, Paradox and Cloverfield sync up at around the 18-minute mark. The catastrophic particle accelerator accident aboard the spaceship rips a hole through space and time which perhaps is what sends the baby monster to New York City and causes the initial power outage:
The blinding light from the spaceship tear seems to appear in 10 Cloverfield Lane when their outage happens:
All in all, I’m excited in the way this can launch other weird films without having to burden each story with an origin for the supernatural elements: