On Super Bowl Sunday, Netflix ran a trailer for The Cloverfield Paradox, previously called The God Particle. That wasn’t a surprise, but what followed was: Netflix made the film available to stream immediately after the game ended, putting it in direct competition with NBC’s This is Us.
If this fan felt lucky, she soon felt let down. Occasionally intriguing but more often sloppy, The Cloverfield Paradox only connects with the original Cloverfield monster-verse in the final scene. Paradox is, in fact, more of a fantasy film wtih numerous nods to sci-fi inspirations, including Sphere (1998), Event Horizon (1997), Interstellar (2014) and Alien (1979). All of which sounds good on paper, but the result is closer to a dud.
The film opens with a conspiracy theorist, played by Donal Logue, who lays out the rules of a mind-bending multiverse. Objects appear inside crew member’s bodies, and crew members appear inside the ship’s systems. An arm disappears painlessly, and when it reappears has a “mind” of its own.
Most followers of the monster movie franchise, produced by J.J. Abrams and Lindsey Weber, knew that The God Particle was secretly a Cloverfield film. Fans also know that Overlord, slated for October, will connect to the franchise. What we know from the first two films is that monsters have taken over the earth. Paradox explains how they entered our reality when the crew onboard the Cloverfield space station fired up the Shepard particle accelerator, hoping to create a global power source and solve an energy crisis. It’s a bit like Stephen King’s The Mist: These creatures come from another version of our world, and they were sucked through a rip in space-time when human ingenuity went too far.
It’s possible that 10 Cloverfield Lane is set on earth during the final events of Paradox, but because none of the characters in the original Cloverfield (Rob, Lily, and Hud, voiced by an off-screen TJ Miller) discuss the world-wide energy crisis from the second two films, fans of the franchise are left with two possible theories tying the three films together.
First, the Shepard particle accelorator sent creatures into various parts of Earth’s timeline. That would mean that the big creatures in the second film, 10 Cloverfield Lane, and the last shot of Paradox have been around since the events of the first film. If this theory holds, then the Cloverfield’s crew ruined life on earth for a decade (in their universe). It also means that the universe of the films was untouched by monsters, but mired in global war and an energy crisis, making Paradox both a sequel and a retconning prequel.
The other option: J.J. Abrams has an affection for multiverse stories (see Star Trek) and Paradox devotes half of its run time to explaining multiple universes. This could mean that each Cloverfield film takes place in a parallel reality: Earth 1, Earth 2, Earth 3. If all the films have their own reality (and their own timeline), that means Overlord and other films from Bad Robot could use the franchise’s monsters in different ways.
One of the big problems with Paradox is that 85 percent of the film is explanation, leaving very little time for character development. We know, for instance, that the heroine (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) accidentally killed her children and likes watching videos of them, but that’s about all we get. The dazzling cast around her are wasted playing stereotypes: David Oyelowo as the stoic captain, Daniel Brühl as the surly German engineer, and Chris O’Dowd as the one (failed) attempt at comic relief.
We can only hope Overlord is more like 10 Cloverfield Lane. But if, in fact, the next film explains what the franchise plans to do with Paradox‘s realities and timelines, we can look at the latest film as the middle of a long-con to something memorable.
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