For months, movie fans have been anxiously awaiting a film we thought was called The God Particle — a supposed new addition to the Cloverfield franchise. Details were scarce, trailers were non-existent, and a release date was all but a mystery. The only thing anyone really knew about the movie was that J.J. Abrams was somehow involved.
All that changed during Super Bowl LII, when an early-game advertising spot not only revealed the actual title of the movie (The Cloverfield Paradox), but also announced the movie would be a Netflix exclusive. In a brilliant piece of marketing, Netflix announced the movie would be available for streaming as soon as the game was over. That decision itself was unprecedented and fans lit up social media saying they would be firing up their Netflix accounts as soon as the final whistle blew.
While the announcement, marketing, and release of The Cloverfield Paradox was sheer brilliance, the movie couldn’t quite live up to the hype.
Much like 10 Cloverfield Lane in 2016, The Cloverfield Paradox offers very little explanation in terms of how it fits into the larger shared universe. The TV spots promised answers to why the events of the original Cloverfield came to transpire, which I suppose we did finally get — even if it felt crammed in as a last minute decision.
This movie, directed by relative newcomer Julius Onah, takes place entirely on the Cloverfield Space Station, which we quickly learn has been commissioned by the governments of the world in order to solve a global energy crisis. The crew’s mission is to perfect a particle accelerator, a project far too dangerous to test on Earth. Some critics, however, claim that the Shepard Accelerator (as it’s named) could have disastrous side effects, ranging from blurring the lines between theoretical alternate dimensions to the complete destruction of the universe.
After an early attempt to fire the Shepard, things go haywire. The station appears to have lost Earth and a mysterious woman named Jensen appears inside the walls of the station itself. As the crew gathers information, they learn that the Shepard has somehow teleported them into an alternate dimension, with some important differences. In this new universe, the people of Earth believe the Cloverfield Station was destroyed and the planet has engaged in a global war over dwindling energy supplies.
Long story short: the crew decides they can fix the Shepard and fire it again to return to their universe, although the merging of the particles between both universes continue to cause strange (and deadly) occurrences aboard the station.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw (from the acclaimed “San Junipero” episode of Black Mirror) stars as Ava Hamilton, a crew member who left her husband on Earth to work on the Cloverfield Station after the death of their young children. When she realizes they are still alive in the alternate universe, her motivations begin to shift. Meanwhile, the mysterious Jensen begins plotting her own moves in order to save her version of Earth, one where the Shepard Accelerator has already been destoryed.
The Cloverfield Paradox does deliver on its one promise, by explaining that the Cloverfield monster first emerged as a result of humans firing a particle accelerator out in space. Other than that, though, this new movie does very little to tie into the greater universe. If it didn’t have the “Cloverfield” name attached to it, it would be nothing more a mediocre sci-fi space movie.
Sure, some of the performances were good. Mbatha-Raw was excellent, as was Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, This is 40, Thor: Dark World) as Mundy, a crew member who ends up with a severed arm that mysteriously doesn’t hurt or bleed. Roger Davies gave a solid showing as Michael, the husband left on Earth. But truthfully, almost no character shines too brightly — a result of a somewhat messy script.
It also gives birth to even more questions about the Cloverfield Universe (or the Cloververse, as it’s called by fans). The monsters from Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane appeared to be different in shape and size. So did those movies take place in the same universe? Also, the original movie suggests that the monster was woken up by a satellite crashing into the ocean. Is that still canon? Did the events of The Cloverfield Paradox somehow insert these creatures into different timelines, where they wreak havoc in different ways? How many different alternate universes have we actually seen so far? And why bother adding a little girl (Molly) near the end of The Cloverfield Paradox unless she will become important to the story at some point?
A fourth Cloverfield film is in the works, named Overlord (for now, anyway). It’s currently scheduled for release later in 2018, although who knows whether those details will remain the same between now and then. It’s reportedly set during World War II, which will really throw the timelines into question. Can it provide some answers? I hope so, because the Cloververse is in danger of becoming a muddled, confusing mess after The Cloverfield Paradox.