Breaking Down ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’

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Spoilers for ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’

Netflix surprised viewers during the Superbowl by announcing The Cloverfield Paradox in an ad, just hours before releasing the full movie online. The Cloverfield movies have a history of being shrouded in mystery and having short ad campaigns. But this move was unprecedented even for the franchise. I started the movie the second the game ended, and had mixed feelings. As far as the Cloverfield movies go, this was probably the weakest one. That said, it was the first in the franchise that attempted to connect the loosely related movies together. It was still a good time, especially in the first two acts of the movie. The third act was by far the weakest. Let’s take a closer look at what what worked and what didn’t. Let’s also discuss what questions we were left with.

We (sort of) find out how this movie connects everything
The Cloverfield Paradox
Mundy (Chris O’Dowd). The Cloverfield Paradox. Source: Netflix

Very early into the movie, via TV interview exposition, a professional is being interviewed who talks about the risk of the “Cloverfield Paradox,” which could lead to monsters being brought into their world, and impact the present, past, and even multiple parallel universes. The movie literally spelled out what was going to happen in one or two lines of exposition. The great mystery of Cloverfield was summed up in this fashion.

After the particle accelerator explodes, two parallel universes collide, which leads to the so-called paradoxes. This explains how Jensen, someone no one knows on the crew, wound up on inside the station’s panels. This explains why the station and Earth got separated. This doesn’t, however fully explain the monsters arrived, since I doubt the similar parallel universe of the second station/crew originally had monsters in it. Does this mean more than two universes were spliced together?

From what we can piece together, it seems like the events of the original Cloverfield movie took place in what we’ll call Earth 1, in the original universe on the brink of war. We caught a brief glimpse of the Clover monster behind the smoke in the ruins of a destroyed city. When Michael goes to the bunker with Molly, the little girl, we see that this is the same bunker from 10 Cloverfield Lane. However, since we don’t see John Goodman’s character from the first one, we can deduce that perhaps 10 Cloverfield Lane takes place somewhere and sometime on Earth 2, when war first broke out. Since we don’t see any mention of the war in this one, and Michael likely would not have gone into hiding since he already has his family.

Uneven storytelling
The Cloverfield Paradox. Source: Netflix

The first two acts of the movie really played out like a sci-fi horror movie, such as Alien. Once s*** started to hit the fan and strange and grotesque fates befell the crew of the station, my eyes were glued to the screen. I genuinely thought this would be a monster movie. The worm scene and Jensen-in-the-wall were genuinely disturbing, horror movie material. Around two-thirds of the way in, it took a turn for the worse as the movie turned into a regular space thriller. Once the freakish occurrences that happened were chalked up to inconsistencies between the parallel universes, it took the edge away from the movie; as well as the logic. The fact that the metal glue seemed to think on its own or that an arm can crawl by itself and write messages would have made some sense if there were supernatural influences, but there was no real explanation for that other than ‘physics.’

The movie also jumped back and forth between the station and Earth, to the story of Michael. These parts almost felt shoehorned in to tie the movie to the first Cloverfield. Nothing happened other than Michael running away from the Clover-destroyed city then into a bunker. It really didn’t propel the story forward, or anywhere for that matter.

The crew
Cloverfield Paradox trapped in ship
The Cloverfield Paradox. Source: Netflix

The characters themselves weren’t all that interesting, which sounds insane because you have such an all-star cast. Gugu Mbatha-Raw did a great job as the lead, Hamilton. The rest, however, were there mainly to be killed off one at a time. When you have someone like David Oyelowo in your project, you should really utilize his talent more. I loved seeing Ziyi Zhang, who played Tam, again in an American movie. I was also happy that Chris O’Dowd was in this. His character, Mundy, served as the only comic relief of the movie. O’Dowd is hilarious in everything he’s in, but it was a mistake to have his character be the sole driver of the funny moments, since that meant that the second his character disappeared, so too did the humor. Humor was scattered very sparingly throughout in random times, whenever Mundy was in the scene. Though Mundy yelling “What are you talking about, arm!” was priceless, and also made me want to rewatch The IT Crowd.

Elizabeth Debicki did a great job as the main antagonist, Jensen. While I’ve only seen her in a handful of movies, including Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Valerian, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I do love that she is able to somehow do all her acting while maintaining the same stoic look throughout the whole movie. Despite the actress’s acting ability, she wasn’t given much to work with. There were no hints at all that Jensen had nefarious motivations, besides maybe one line earlier in the movie about her being stranded away from her own world.

The ending
Cloverfield Paradox
The Clover monster. The Cloverfield Paradox. Source: Netflix

Everything seems to wrap up very neatly at the end (minus the majority of the crew dying). Hamilton had a brief moment of internal struggle when she tried to decide whether to return to her own world or stay in the other universe in which her children are still alive. She then makes a decision, stops Jensen, then has another brief moment of indecision. Then the scene cuts and we see her very effortlessly remove a handful of bullets from Schmidt (Daniel Brühl), who seemed like he was going to die after Jensen shot him. This was really sloppily done. Merely seconds after we find out that he was okay and surgery is easy, they then run off to fix the station, fire off the particle accelerator, then get back to their universe with ease; an ease they didn’t have before when they had the rest of the crew.

I really disliked the return sequence from the station back to Earth. Hamilton and Schmidt reach out to the mission base from Earth to let them know they were safe and that they got the accelerator to work. We hear cheering on the other end of the conversation. They then set off back to Earth in a pod. The people on Earth also connect Michael to Hamilton for a quick radio conversation. When they hang up, the Earth scientist people then reveal that they didn’t have time to tell Hamilton and Schmidt that the Earth now had monsters on it. What the hell? That should have been what they opened with. It would have taken them only seconds to explain this once they re-established connection. They could have then gave the two updated coordinates that are relatively safe. You can’t tell me that nowhere on Earth is safe; we heard the conversation between the space crew and the Earth scientists, in which there was cheering from multiple people in the background. This means that the Earth scientists are either at the old base of operations, or at the very least relocated elsewhere. This was really lazy writing. We then get a Planet of the Apes type ending where the two space travelers return to a completely different Earth, and we finally see the head of a GIANT Clover monsters pop out from beneath the clouds. I’m glad that we got to see the monster at least once, even if it was for a brief second.

Overall, there were parts that I really enjoyed about The Cloverfield Paradox. It’s clear to me that this was intended to be a standalone flick that then got a Cloverfield stamp put on it. The first two acts of the movie, when there were still horror elements, were way more interesting than the ending. Technically this movie did connect all the Cloverfield movies together, even if it wasn’t through the greatest explanation. I’m excited to see where the franchise goes next, but hope that the writing is better and the cast is utilized.

Lingering questions
  • How did the ship part end up in Volkov? I mean I get that the two universes getting put together may have misplaced things, like putting Jensen in a wall, but I feel like Volkov would have noticed a giant metal sphere in his torso.
  • Speaking of Volkov, why did he talk to himself and go mad? How does physics explain this?
  • If things with the two universes were fixed by the accelerator, why are there still monsters?
  • Where did the monsters come from, if not from one of those two parallel universes that we see?
  • The original Cloverfield was a monster movie, 10 Cloverfield Lane was a psychological thriller, and The Cloverfield Paradox was a space thriller. Are they going to continue this pattern of having a different genre movie each time

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