After the events located at 10 Cloverfield Lane brought in some healthy returns, the search was on for the next entry in this loose anthology series that started with the secretive Kaiju antics of 2008’s Cloverfield. Much like it’s immediate predecessor, a spec script (originally titled God Particle) was gathered up by producer J.J. Abrams and reformatted into something more in line with the famously confounding franchise and once again came complete with a fittingly game changing ad campaign – but this time things were slightly different. After numerous delays of it’s theatrical release, an ad on that year’s Superbowl confirmed that it would be dropping out of nowhere on the streaming platform us earth dwelling organisms known as Netflix. Why is all this relevant? Well because like everything in the Cloverfield universe, nothing is as it seems.
It’s 2028 and the political landscape of the world is utterly fucked – that’s the technical term – with multiple countries on the verge of war due to the planet’s fuel reserves being dangerously low. In an effort to score a hail mary play, a multi-national crew has been sent up into space to safely test the Shepherd, a particle accelerator that will create a new form of energy if it’s successful. Initially feeling hopeful (presumably because no one has seen Danny Boyle’s Sunshine), the experiment drags on for two years while German physicist Schmidt and Chinese engineer Tam struggle to get it working and all the while, English engineer Ava struggles to keep her marriage stable after fleeing to the stars in grief after an accidental fire had claimed the lives of their children.
However, after they manage to get the bloody thing finally working, a power surge from the Shepherd leads them to notice that earth is suddenly and worryingly conspicuous by it’s absence and firstly deduce that the devise has flung them far across the galaxy. As none of these guys have thought to pack a copy of Event Horizon with them, certain strange occurrences start to freak them out; the Russian crewmember freaks out and then dies under mysterious circumstances and the crew then follow the sound of screaming coming through the walls to find a stange woman fused with the various pipes, machinery and wires. What’s even stranger is that this woman, claims to know Ava well even though Ava has never met her before in her life – but the freakiness doesn’t end there… after retrieving a vital, missing component from bizarre place (a human torso) after getting an even more bizarre lead (a living disembodied arm) it becomes apparent that something that’s been dubbed the Cloverfield Paradox has come to pass and that the Shepherd is messing with all of reality. As dimensions are compelled to play pass the parcel with reality, it appears that the crew are trapped in another dimention and that to get back means fixing the Shepherd and turning it back on. But with something catastrophic happening back on earth in their reality that’s somehow worse than a world war, is there anything worth coming back to?
I mentioned at the top of the review that something odd was going on with the release of The Cloverfield Paradox back in 2018 and everything so became clear once the film was released to the masses. Despite great production values and an impressive cast, this third dive into the world of Cloverfield was a bit shit and selling it to Netflix for a flat fee instead of casting it adrift into theaters would guarantee that it would be in some way profitable. Dressing the whole thing up as a new groundbreaking release strategy was pretty shifty but when you consider the 2021 COVID plans of Warner Brothers, you can’t help think that the movie was bizarrely ahead of it’s time…
That’s the only thing about The Cloverfield Paradox that’s ahead of it’s time however, as what we’re left with is a truly great cast getting swallowed up in one of the most derivative scripts you’ll ever be likely to sit through. There’s literally a list of films similar (and superior) to this that as long as your severed – yet still alive – arm with Prometheus, Event Horizon, Life and, inevitably, Alien all being callously referenced with casual abandon. In fact The Cloverfield Paradox goes to create somewhat of a paradox itself as it forms itself from the DNA of far better movies to create something way less interesting that the films it’s stealing from. This of course means that even though you have a insanely versatile stable of actors such as David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris O’Dowd and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, they’re all playing stock characters and end up disappearing into the background somewhat (literally in the case gorily painful case of Debicki).
That’s not to say the film is a total loss, even though the weirdness is seemingly random, the film is fairly coherent and straight forward in it’s execution (which means the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey – or for that matter Disney’s The Black Hole – are two of the rare movie NOT shamelessly pilfered from). The movie also contains some shocking deaths that have weird Sci-fi meets Final Destination vibes which concocts some truly nasty demises for the luckless crew as dimensions collide and reality decides to fuck off for an unsanctioned cigarette break.
However, one thing the film promised was an “explanation” for the whole franchise (yep, all two whole movies, thanks guys – I was losing sleep over that…) that claimed everything was connected. While many theorists got excited and then crushed by a cameo from a certain city crushing monster that lasted all of three seconds, it does sort of explain what’s going on in the other movies if you put the vague pieces together. Both the monster and alien invasions from Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane have probably been caused by the Shepherd altering reality throughout the dimensional stack itself, which would suddenly insert things that shouldn’t be there: like a giant, fucking salamader monster in Manhattan…
The least of the franchise by a fucking mile, the final sight of “Clover” (or one of it’s species) roaring through a cloud bank like the MGM lion seemed to have got people all wistful over the original, and talks if a direct sequel are currently being bandied about. Whether this means the Cloverfield franchise in it’s current form is finally dead, or just waiting to spring at us with yet another mystery ad campaign only time will tell.
But for now, people mostly seem to be over the Clover…