Back in 2008 the first Cloverfield film launched with a mystery trailer featuring no title card, with no associated publicity and with the Statue of Liberty getting her head torn off. No one knew what the movie was but it certainly got people talking. Films were not commonly put out that way.
Then eight years later second Cloverfield film was also dropped on an unsuspecting world with no early press and with another surprise trailer. The clips showed a kidnap thriller bearing no obvious connection to the previous alien monster movie until the title was revealed as 10 Cloverfield Lane. The film then hit cinemas only two months later. Most films are being pushed six months ahead, sometimes a year.
Of course there was no way they were going to be able to pull this trick three times and sure enough a little while ago rumour got out that this new film under development named The God Particle was another Cloverfield film. A fact that was soon confirmed by producer J.J Abrams. Internet chatter also picked up on the fact that it would be going out on Netflix and sure enough this was shown to be the case when the first trailer for the movie, now called The Cloverfield Paradox, played during the Super Bowl last Sunday. There were no great surprises this time, at least not until the end of the trailer when the released date came up. We didn’t get the usual dd.mm.yy though, instead it just said ‘Tonight’. Dropping the trailer just two hours before the film, no one’s done that before and once again no one saw it coming.
Then by 8 o’clock on Monday morning the first reviews popped up online, some film journalists suddenly having got some unexpected overtime, and they weren’t good. I’ve not read the write ups yet but from the strap lines the consensus seems to be that it’s a mess. Having watched it myself though I really can’t see the problem. The Cloverfield Paradox is an imaginative sci-fi adventure film with solid special effects and good performances from a recognisable cast. Parts of it are underwritten and much is unexplained (as has been the case with all the Cloverfield movies) but I really enjoyed it. I guess with fanfare comes expectation.
Sunday’s Super Bowl promo ran the line ‘Ten years ago something arrived, now find out why’ and sure enough this film does tell us what caused the giant monsters and spaceships to show up in the previous films. It doesn’t say how but we definitely get a why which in a series of films that that always celebrated its ambiguities is fine. The Cloverfield Paradox features six scientists running experiments on a space station in the future to solve the Earth’s energy crisis. Rather than this being another alien beastie loose on a spacecraft movie though it is more akin to Event Horizon with weird unexplainable occurrences causing the crew some really extreme problems. As the original title suggests the film takes the idea that The Large Hadron Collider was going to open black holes and inter-dimensional rifts and runs with it.
The thread of the previous two films runs very clearly through this and it actually proves to be the connective tissue that holds what is now a loose trilogy together. There are whispers that a fourth movie has secretly been filmed and is ready to go (of course there are) and actually rather than killing the franchise The Cloverfield Paradox nicely opens up where it could go.
Another strength is how this film, like its predecessors, focuses on the personal concerns of the people involved. The opening of the film has Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s protagonist talking to her husband about whether or not she’ll accept the mission and the impact this will have on their relationship. How often do movies like this start in this manner? It is played earnestly and they get away with the line ‘if you go we’ll survive, if you don’t no one will’ which would have been cheesy in a Bruckheimer flick. In fact there is quite a lot here that successfully handles what other films might have fumbled. There is an effective early montage and some humour around something that happens to Chris O’Dowd’s character with I won’t elaborate on other than to say that it reminded me of when a similar thing happened to Woody in Toy Story 2. There is nice imagery too, particularly surrounding a window that plays videos, and it is actually a shame that people will be watching this on a small screen.
The Cloverfield Paradox does feature a lot of science babble (I’m still not exactly sure what the Cloverfield paradox actually is) and in this respect and others it borrows quite heavily from Star Trek. It probably wants to be Interstellar but even if it doesn’t manage this it is definitely worth a hundred minutes of your time. It is bonkers but the Cloverfield films have all been bonkers and what’s compelling is that they still manage to be bonkers in different ways.
The Ripley Factor:
The Cloverfield Project is great from a diversity point of view. It features a main cast of just ten people; four women, six men, three black, four white, one Puerto Rican, one Chinese, two British, one Australian, one Irish, one Norwegian, one German and two Americans. The lead is a woman and like Ripley herself fights against some extraordinary circumstances in space while retaining her worldly vulnerabilities.
Is this one for the kids?
This is particularly important since the film is streaming directly into your homes. The Cloverfield Paradox is rated 15 and does feature some grizzly and bloody deaths typical of this type of movie with this type of classification. There is nothing to equal John Hurt’s demise in Alien but a couple of moments come close. Don’t watch it if you’ve got a phobia of worms.