When Cloverfield came out in 2008, it was surrounded by a mysterious online marketing campaign. Abrams and Reeves took advantage of the rising popularity of found footage films, but did not tell a ghost story. Instead they opened a new doorway for the genre by making a creature feature. Eight years later 10 Cloverfield Lane was dropped into fans' laps and took the franchise inward with claustrophobia, paranoia, and a fear of how monsterous people can be. Immediately following the success of Lane, rumors started floating about a third movie titled, The God Particle. Earlier this week, without warning or advertisment, that third film was released to Netflix, titled The Cloverfield Paradox. Now, Cloverfield is the name of a space station filled with scientists attempting to collide particles to create energy for Earth, which is running out. While it falls into space Horror tropes and asks more questions than it answers, The Cloverfield Paradox manages to be a decent film through effects and quick pacing.
NOTE: Spoilers will be made for all three films when necessary.
Throughout this film, nods were made to the other films. Blatant ones included numerous depictions of the Kelvin and Slusho companies, part of the film took place in an underground shelter, and a larger version of the original monster. Less obvious connections include Donal Logue's character (Mark Stambler) having the same last name as John Goodman’s character from Lane; Stambler mentioning creatures from the sea; the newscaster being played by Suzanne Cryer (the same actress who comes to the shelter infected in Lane); and something from space falling into the ocean, which could potentially awaken something from the depths. Undoubtably there were more Easter eggs woven throughout. A few were worth mentioning because not only were they fun callbacks to the other films, but they also aided in foreshadowing and establishing a connection early on between all three films. That being said, the ending (the biggest connection to the original) still felt tacked on, which was one of the flaws in Paradox.
Yes, Stambler mentioned the possibility of sea creatures, but that was it as far as the monster connection went—until the end. The final jump scare with the massive-sized Clover monster did not feel earned. It felt like the filmmakers wanted a direct connection to Cloverfield, so they added the monster last minute for shock and awe. At one point Michael did see a shadow of something, but that, partnered with him witnessing explosions, was intentionally misleading the audience to think it could be the aliens from Lane. It felt like a disservice to fans. After Cloverfield was released, there were talks of a sequel where the original monster was a baby, and part two would focus on the mother, presumably massive. Paradox revisited this idea but in a lazy, dissatisfying way.
Further dissatisfying was the humor. Normally, Chis O’dowd is great, and his performance in this film was fine. The problem was that the humor itself was out of place. Paradox had a heavy subject, so it was understandable that they wanted to dampen the tone with comedy. Unfortunately the comedic lines were contrived and mismatched from the rest of the tone, making the movie feel disjointed in that aspect. Comedy has become a staple in these grand, heavy-themed movies. Sometimes it works; sometimes it does not. But filmmakers need to find the distinction between helping and hurting. Another tired space movie trap Paradox fell into was the sacrifice. Nearly every space movie involves someone intentionally sacrificing themselves for the rest of the team. Audiences knew it was coming, so it needed to have an emotional punch to make it worthwhile. Since the pacing was quick, there was not enough character development with the sacrificing character to make the death impactful. It was that pacing, however, which gave this picture redemption.
As stated, the pacing was Paradox's saving grace. There was approximately 5 minutes of set-up before this thing took off. After that there was one thing after another, and most of what was happening was interesting. When events were not developing on the Cloverfield space station, the movie cut to Earth and showed what was going on there, which was shrouded in mystery. Pacing might have been a curse in the sense that outside of Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), there was no time for character development. Also, Kiel almost immediately imprisoning Schmidt happened too quickly, but at least there was some set-up for that. Movies such as this tend to slow and drag during the second act, but here it does not—leaving viewers to care about the character they were supposed to, without boredom. Something interesting, entertaining, or creepy was happening in every shot. And those shots were gorgeous, as was the entire movie. One shot in particular that stuck out was the first shot of Earth from space. Earth was upside-down, and as it rotated toward the camera with city lights glaring down below, the sun slowly crept from behind the horizon. As the sun appeared the space station came into view showing its scale and complexity. Gorgeous. There was also a scene with freezing water, which was a cool idea and executed well. Practical effects were well done—the station was believable. The acting was good, nothing nearly as captivating as in Lane, but mostly because the actors never get a chance to shine. So the cast becomes wasted.
Paradox attempted to answer the question of whether these three films are connected. But it left more questions in its wake, such as: what dimension are the people in now? And what about the aliens from Lane? Where was the connection there? My biggest question was what was this movie's point? Cloverfield was a response to 9/11 much as Godzilla was a response to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 10 Cloverfield Lane was a look at how inhumane humans can be in a modern society, and what it would take to make us come together. Maybe The Cloverfield Paradox was attempting to be a commentary on human consumption and the future of sustainability, but if so that point was not fleshed out enough to be as impactful as the messages its predecessors delivered. And that was a problem. Those themes were part of what made the previous two great, and if nothing else, at least they were connected by that. Fans of the franchise will enjoy combing through and finding the treasures hidden within, but will be dissatisfied with the arcing theme (or lack thereof). General audiences will probably find it entertaining enough, but will be left wondering what the point was in the end. Hopefully the fourth installment, which is supposedly slated for theaters and currently titled Overlord, will boost the franchise back to the caliber it once was.
Further Viewing: Life — A space movie with a similar aesthetic.
Sunshine — A space movie with a similar premise.