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WRITTEN REVIEW: The Cloverfield Paradox

From the moment the teaser ad debuted during Super Bowl LII, the internet was on fire with talk of The Cloverfield Paradox - the third film in the Cloverfield universe, produced by Paramount Pictures and J. J. Abrams' Bad Robot Productions.

First and foremost, what is remarkable about this film is it's bold acquisition and promotion by Netflix. It's Super Bowl tv spot plugged the streaming release of the sequel on Netflix, available immediately after the conclusion of the championship game – several months before it's theatrical release.

What a bold and exciting move this was by Netflix, and is an incredible way to remain relevant and even flex the company's muscle – drawing in the attention of one of the largest television audiences. Not to mention, creating a major event to be experienced and shared by fans of both the franchise and the sci-fi/horror genres.

I don't think I've been this intrigued by an ad campaign for a sci-fi or horror film since The Blair Witch Project – which exists in a world of it's own. Leading up to the Super Bowl, there was much online chatter about a possible Cloverfield commercial. Honestly, I expected something, more creative. Perhaps taking a page from War of the Worlds - “interrupting” the game with “breaking news” involving a monster attack that was underway. But was I disappointed? Nah!

So, what about the film?

Treading lightly to avoid spoiling anything, The Cloverfield Paradox is about Hamilton, a young British scientist who has joined an international crew in space to conduct research using a particle accelerator. On Earth, in our near future, there is an energy crisis that Hamilton and her fellow scientists are attempting to find a solution for to avoid imminent war and eventually humanity's extinction.

With time and resources running out, they get lucky when one of their experiments turns fruitful with a sudden generation of power. This good news is short lived however, because when the smoke clears, the crew of the space station discover that the Earth has seemingly dissipated. Or have they?

Before the crew can figure out what happened, and develop a plan to undo what has been done, strange and mysterious things start to unfold. At the heart of the mystery is the sudden disappearance of one crew member's arms, as well as the appearance of a woman - another scientist, who wasn't originally a part of THIS expedition.

In short, the added scientist and missing arm are all clues to what happened - the weakening of the barrier separating dimensions. This has caused things and people to move unexpectedly between dimensions and wreak all sorts of havoc on the space station itself. The same is true with other dimensions inhabited by giant man eating monsters. For more on this topic, see an obscure film called Cloverfield. Maybe you've heard of it? What complicates things further is how this new dimension swapping crew member has her own specific energy generating motivations.

But is it good? Should you have watched it? Did you miss out on something magical?

Well I sure enjoyed it. I feel that this film will be somewhat divisive. People will either love it, or think it's weird. For me, that's what makes the film so interesting. When you play with the building blocks of reality and dimensions, as The Cloverfield Paradox does, some wild stuff can happen and as a result this film may fall into to the open arms of die hard sci-fi fans and alienate the more casual sci-fi movie goer. This film is more Interstellar melded with a less gruesome Event Horizon than it is it's more adventurous and romantic counterparts; Star Wars or The Fifth Element.
Fun Fact: The working title for the film was God Particle. This is a reference to the discovery made in 2012 using the Large Hadron Collider – the world's largest particle accelerator. The experiment explored and proved the existence of the Higgs Boson, which is affectionately known as the “God Particle” among the scientific community. The Higgs is what allows elementary particles like electrons and protons – the building blocks of, well everything - to have mass.
Initially the characters felt a little generic and the story a little predictable, but as the film developed, so did it's characters and plot. Eventually both would surprise me in ways that were satisfying.

I mentioned how there is dimension swapping and world saving in The Cloverfield Paradox, and again, I don't want to give away any spoilers, but it seems that writers Oren Uziel and Doug Jung are big fans of the show Futurama. For more on this topic, see "The Farnsworth Parabox" - episode fifteen of season four.

Over all The Cloverfield Paradox is an interesting, and recommended, addition to the Cloverfield universe. I call it a “universe” rather than a franchise because all of the events of the three Cloverfield films share continuity, but are very much their own in terms of genre, tone and scale. Where Cloverfield was a chaotic and up tempo found footage monster flick and 10 Cloverfield Lane was a slower and more claustrophobic thriller - The Cloverfield Paradox is an even larger in scale, and at times heady, isolated space story with it's fair share of action to keep it's audience interested...yeah, that's an odd combination of things these films have going for them, but it works.

I also feel that Netflix is a fitting home for this Cloverfield addition, as it is in some ways akin to The Stranger Things. I know somewhere, someone is already calling this film a Stranger Things rip-off, and if you are that person - calm yourself down. This film has been in the making for several years now. In fact it was being filmed in 2016, when the first season of Stranger Things was being released AND it's script was complete and sitting around in development since 2010, if I'm not mistaken. So the notion that there are giant monsters lurking in another dimension that exists right under our nose seems to be a popular one. I wonder what that says about us - the viewing audience who these stories resonate so well.

It's refreshing to see something so different and bold. I think this is what J. J. Abrams and Disney might ultimately strive for with future Star Wars films. Creating any number of scenarios and stories to take place in what has already been established. This breaks the viewer and the intellectual property free from the repetition of uninspired sequels. Every future film has the freedom to support the source material as well as being completely original.

I suppose that only time will tell how well The Cloverfield Paradox fits into it's own universe. But for the time being, it's a welcome addition that provides explanation and leaves me wondering, where do we boldly go from here?


★ ★ ★