The Cloverfield Paradox
Reviewed by Eddie Daou
THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX is a landmark of how we view films. Netflix’s release of this movie is monumental: a move that will be looked back at as the beginning of the end for traditional film releases. It truly is Netflix’s greatest achievement.
Let me give some background for those who aren’t avid follows of film news: Cloverfield is a series of TWILIGHT ZONE-esque (or for younger readers, BLACK MIRROR-esque) films. It started in 2008 with CLOVERFIELD, a found footage monster movie. Much of the hype for the film’s release came in the form of an online ARG, or Alternate Reality Game, where online fans pieced together bits and pieces of information to find out what “Cloverfield” even was. After the film came out, fans learned it was a big ol’ monster. 8 long years later, Paramount Pictures, by surprise, released a trailer for a film called 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, confounding film fans like myself. Nobody knew this film even existed until 2 months before its release, or even how a film that looked like a self-contained thriller connected to a movie about a giant monster. I was immensely excited, and Paramount and Bad Robot Productions delivered greater than the immense hype called for, turning 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE into one of the best movies of the last decade, and a personal modern favorite film of mine. After 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, we were promised a whole new line of films, each one a standalone, revolving around some big supernatural “twist”. Every film would be connected by the Cloverfield name. It’s truly a novel idea, promising a slew truly mysterious and thrilling sci-fi stories.
Now flash forward two years. Not a single peep has been heard in the two years since 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE was announced, only the fact that sequels were eventually coming. Nobody knew when (or even how), and Cloverfield fans just had to wait.
Until the super bowl.
On Sunday night, during the big game, a commercial for THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX was aired, announcing the films’ surprise existence. But the even bigger twist? The movie was coming out IN THREE HOURS, ON NETFLIX. I was speechless: not a peep about the third Cloverfield movie for two long years, and just like that, it was revealed it was coming out in mere hours. If you told me Sunday morning that I’d be watching a new Cloverfield movie that very night, I’d laugh at you in your face. But here we are, with Netflix dropping this bombshell on us. Apparently, Netflix closed a deal to buy THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX from Paramount and Bad Robot a week ago. This is a HUGE win for Netflix, and a seriously important moment in the history of streaming. A big, hotly anticipated franchise film was being released straight to Netflix. And not only that, but it lit up the film community, sparking tons to watch it immediately after release. This is huge because it shows that Netflix is a place that people will go to see new movies in franchises they already know and follow. This turned into a huge moment for film fans, thanks to both the surprise and the easy availability of it. Seeing a big new blockbuster on the big theater screen is one thing, but seeing a huge movie the day it comes out on your TV without having to get off of your sofa or even put pants on is a different thing entirely. Personally, I greatly prefer the theater experience, but having this movie so easily accessible to millions is such a vast exposure that theaters just don’t have anymore. Just look at the declining numbers of movie theater attendance. The public is shifting away from theatergoing, and moving towards streaming. This is the future, and the Cloverfield franchise is getting ahead of the game. In the end, this is only a sign that this franchise will endure. Netflix reportedly paid $50 million for distribution rights for just this movie. All future Cloverfield films are currently still with Paramount. But THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX is a huge gamble, a deal between a major movie studio and a streaming service for releasing a blockbuster movie. It
But the quality of the actual film, you ask? Well, that’s quite the conversation. Compared to every other Netflix original film, THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX is a masterpiece. But compared to the other two Cloverfield movies, this film leaves quite a bit to be desired by avid fans like myself.
This is less of an actual film, and more of a means of giving information to Cloverfield fans and theorizers. I can’t complain about having a bigger playground to play in, but I certainly would’ve liked a sturdier one. The plot of this film relies entirely on fan-theories and analysts going in and filling the gaps. This makes for a fun puzzle for fans, but not a wholly satisfying viewing experience.
THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX’s script is the problem. It just feels like it’s 3 or 4 drafts away from being a truly great movie on the same level of the first two entries in the series. It’s tough to explain both the plot and what exactly isn’t clicking here, but it just boils down to the fact that the writing really needs some work done. There’s certainly potential for this idea, and there are moments during the film where the greatness of what this movie could be really shines through. But so much of the plot and so many character motivations are just so muddled that it’s jarring for the viewer at times. This movie just blurs the lines between “open space for fan theories” and “plot holes”. I was really mixed on my thoughts the first time I watched this movie, so I went and watched it a second time so I could differentiate between “open spaces” and “plot holes”. Thank Netflix that I was able to rewatch and analyze so easily.
The film isn’t entirely a loss. There were some aspects that I truly appreciated. To start, the direction is awesome. Director Julius Onah really makes himself stand out as someone who can meld together sound design, cinematography, and production design to create some awesome and strange setpieces and moments. The production design is off the charts, and the space station looks great. The fantastic cinematography adds to the greatness of the visuals, and each frame looks stunning. And every single actor and actress here gives a great performance, even if the script hasn’t totally fleshed out their characters. The performers really add the emotions to their characters. And there are some genuinely interesting sci-fi ideas presented here. Even though it’s messy at times, I’d rather have an ambitious mess that actually tries to do something new (like what this film does with the Cloverfield franchise) than one with no ambition at all. And how can I complain when I pretty much just got to see this hugely anticipated movie as a surprise? I truly admire the whole surprise release of this film. Major blockbuster movies these days seldom deliver surprises like this, and I really do wish studios would try out something as cool as this.
I’m about to dip in to some **spoilers** for a bit, so I recommend that if you haven’t seen the film then just skip this next paragraph:
This film is supposed to be the “inciting incident” of the Cloverfield series. Think of it as a kind of “prequel”. What this film solidly tells us is that the explosion rippled through *every* universe in existence. So basically, every inciting incident of every Cloverfield movie is supposedly caused by the explosion in the beginning of this movie. However, this movie also includes totally pointless and stupid cutaways to Earth, showing an attack on New York City by some mysterious monster. This is almost exactly like the original CLOVERFIELD, but there are a few problems: the first CLOVERFIELD is set in 2007, with none of the modern technology that THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX has, and the original makes no mention of any energy crisis on Earth, or any warring between nations. And the monster from the original Cloverfield that shows up in the final shot of this film is GIGANTIC, much, much larger than the monster shown in the first movie. The quick fan-theory fix here is that THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX isn’t set in the same universe as the original CLOVERFIELD. All of the discrepancies between the movies support this theory, but I think this movie just needs to make that clearer for fans like me. The final shot of this film doesn’t have the same weight of the endings of the other two films, it just feels like “come back next time to get this explained in CLOVERFIELD 4!” It isn’t even a goddamn surprise with the awkward cutaways to Earth that depict an alien “attack” of some sort. It doesn’t have the weight of the ending of 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, since there isn’t any shock in it thanks to the scenes where they show Earth. If they hadn’t shown Earth in the middle of an attack at all, then that would’ve been an admittedly amazing twist ending. But, surprisingly, this confusing movie told us too much information in the one spot it wasn’t giving away way too little information.
(End spoiler section)
I definitely had my fair share of problems with THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a total blast watching it. The surprise release just added so much excitement, making this more of a “moment” than a movie. If you’re searching for something to watch on Netflix, I totally recommend that you watch this movie. THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX is a solid sci-fi thriller that’s definitely worth checking out.
It’s a shame this movie came out in February, because we might have already viewed the biggest moment in cinema of 2018 CLOVERFIELD 4 has apparently finished filming already, and rumors are it’ll be coming out at the end of the year, so mark that as a potential second biggest moment. Was this movie perfect? No. Did it have a plethora of problems? Certainly. But it had some genuinely great pieces, and some awesome additions to the Cloverfield universe. This franchise has *so* much potential, and the first two films were *so* great, and one clunker of an episode didn’t tank THE TWILIGHT ZONE, did it? If disappointing entries becomes a trend in this franchise, then it’ll be a clear red flag for the studio to stop making them. But one misstep doesn’t sink this franchise, and I’ll definitely be first in line (or first online) for CLOVERFIELD 4.