A Geeky Guy’s Movie Guide to The Cloverfield Paradox (2018)
I am a huge fan of the Cloverfield experience.
You read that right: Experience.
To me, the Cloverfield movies are more than just films. They are pieces to a much larger and ever evolving puzzle. I will explain more about this puzzle in a later post.
The cast is one of this movie's strong points.
*Warning, although this review contains no spoilers at all, it is a bit disjointed and out of order… just like everything in the Cloverfield Universe.
Ever since seeing the very last frame of Cloverfield over a decade ago, I have been dying for more of that story. Although, I was willing to accept the shaky camera and first person point of view, I didn't love it. What I did love was the story... and the puzzle. I wanted more of it. I wanted to know more about the events leading up to that night, the details of the night, and the aftermath.
For years I had heard rumors that J.J. Abrams might release movies detailing other people's points of view from that night. After all, it wasn't only Hud who was filming the events of the "incident". There are many scenes that show others filming on their cameras or phones.
I had also heard rumors that a more linear Godzilla-like movie was in the works.
I would happily welcome either of those.
When 10 Cloverfield Lane was released, I had hoped it would be directly connected to "the incident". Although I was disappointed that it was not connected, I loved that movie.
For the past two years, I have patiently waited for the puzzle to continue. Then it happened. During the Super Bowl, a surprise ad for The Cloverfield Paradox appeared out of nowhere. I immediately took out my phone and searched what the heck it could be. To my elation, I discovered the movie would be immediately available on Netflix after the game. I watched it as soon as I could.
As always, I was hoping for a very direct connection to Cloverfield. And as always, this was not that movie. Yet, I was not disappointed. In fact, this just means that the puzzle will continue.
While most people online absolutely hate this movie, I enjoyed it. I would imagine that is because I have learned never to expect a Cloverfield movie to be a simple, mindless linear story. Watching a Cloverfield movie is difficult. It takes work… and I love it.
Approximately fifteen minutes into the movie, I got off my couch and pulled up a chair very close to the television. I simply had to consume every detail. I didn't want to miss a single image, line of dialogue or sound. In short, I wanted to make sure I didn't miss any pieces of the puzzle. I was not disappointed.
There were important pictures in the background, meaningful character names, significant text messages, and other "Easter eggs" from the series.
While doing a little research for this post, I came across an endless sea of negative reviews (currently 19% on Rotten Tomatoes). For example, Brian Lowrey of CNN.com wrote, “Director Julius Onah’s film strands its solid cast in the vacuum of space with that most terrifying of monsters — an utterly convoluted script — producing a few tense moments but a general takeaway that’s much closer to puzzling than profound."
He is 100% right. Surprisingly, that is why I truly enjoyed this experience. The script was indeed complex and difficult to follow. The takeaway was puzzling. Because of these factors, like the previous movies, when this one ended, the experience did not. I immediately started searching online for those answers. To my delight, I found even more questions. I am going to be quite busy hunting for puzzle pieces over the next several months.
If you are looking for a movie that tells an easy to follow linear story that ends with everything tied up in a nice little bow, this is not the movie for you.
This film is both a prequel and a sequel to Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane. If that idea seems intriguing, you will most likely enjoy this piece of the puzzle. On the other hand, if you think that is preposterous, you should probably give this one a pass.
How can one movie be both a prequel and a sequel? You have to watch it to find out.
On the surface, The Cloverfield Paradox is a fairly cliche sci-fi/horror movie set aboard a space station nearly 20 years after the events of Cloverfield. Although the parallels to Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and The Thing are incredibly obvious, there are enough original ideas to avoid calling it a complete ripoff. Without the puzzle, that is all this movie is: a run of the mill and very forgettable science fiction movie.
That is not to say it is a complete waste of time if you are not a huge fan of the franchise and its intricate puzzle. For a relatively low-budget movie, the cast is surprisingly excellent. David Oyelowo, who earned accolades for his role as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, did a fantastic job as Kiel, the Captain of the station. Gugu Mbatha-Rawas Hamilton is quite impressive. At one point, her performance almost moved me to tears. I could not find a single flaw in the rest of the cast. Even if one does not like this film, I doubt they would point to the cast as the reason.
I was also impressed by the music. Because the movie is very slow moving, the music played a pivotal role in creating drama and a feeling of anticipation.
As I have mentioned before, I think we have become spoiled by the quality of special effects. We have arrived at a place where the effects are only mentioned if they are terrible (Justice League). Although the effects are not spectacular, they are also not a distraction. Considering this was a relatively low budget movie, I would count that as a positive as well.
Even without the supplemental puzzle, the story is interesting… if you are willing to think while viewing it. If you just want something to toss on in the background while surfing steemit, choose something else.
The sets and effects were very good for a relatively low budget film.
Perhaps the greatest attribute for the non-Cloverfield fanatic is the length. At just over 90 minutes, The Cloverfield Paradox bucks the recent trend of overly bloated films (The Shape of Water). At that length, I feel comfortable recommending this movie based on the acting, music and special effects alone. If it turns out one of my friends hates it, all they lost is 90 minutes of their lives. Even though critics seem to despise this film, I would imagine at the worst, my circle of geeky friends would be indifferent to it.
As a semi-fanatic (I don’t go out and search for physical clues in the real world like the true fanatics) the best part of the movie is that it opens up an endless amount of possibilities for new Cloverfield projects. For example, the next installment will be set during WWII and center on a group of American paratroopers sent to take control of a Nazi occupied village during the D-Day invasion. Thanks to the events of The Cloverfield Paradox that story will actually be connected to those of Cloverfield set in 2008, 10 Cloverfield Lane set in 2016 and this film set in 2028.
I can’t wait to see the next piece of the puzzle... and the next piece... and the next piece.
Alternate Reality of The Geeky Guy's Guide (who should see this movie?):
Cloverfield Fanatic: You already watched it and started writing your fan theories and looking into the ARG (Alternate Reality Game).
Cloverfield Fan (like me): See it immediately and then go and check out what the true fanatics have written.
Person who enjoyed one of the previous movies: You should watch it at some point when you have 90 minutes to kill. (Perhaps on a flight?)
Sci-Fi Fan who doesn't need a lot of action and doesn't mind using thinking as a form of entertainment: Flip a coin.
Casual Fan of big Hollywood Sci-Fi blockbusters: Skip it.
Popcorn movie fan: Skip it.
Didn't find a description of you here: Thank you so much for reading this even though you have no interest in Cloverfield. You should definitely not watch it.
The Cloverfield Paradox is currently available to stream on Netflix.