Let me first preface this review by stating that I had mixed feelings about the first two movies in this strange, eye-twitching franchise.
The original Cloverfield film, while I enjoyed getting to see a giant, unexplained creature destroying the city, bothered me a great deal because of the ridiculousness of the main characters’ motives. The logic seemed thin throughout, and I personally loathe most “found footage” films, which ask us to suspend our disbelief that anyone in the middle of an apocalyptic situation would focus so much energy to keep the camera rolling at all times.
The second in the franchise – 10 Cloverfield Lane – was, I felt, a good movie overall, but it was a bit confusing as a tie-in to the original film. It could have easily been a stand-alone story, but shoe-horning in a morsel of Cloverfield’s world at the very end seemed a bit forced to me, if not entirely confusing and perhaps even a little infuriating because of the questions it raised just as the credits rolled.
With that said, we move on to The Cloverfield Paradox, and I have to be honest: I’m surprised by how many critics and film-lovers alike are bashing this Netflix release and calling it, “The worst of the franchise so far.”
Now, I won’t go so far as to claim that it was a masterpiece or anything, but to be perfectly and utterly blunt: I fully enjoyed this movie, save for a few of those eye-twitching bits I’ve found the franchise to be known for.
The film opens with the main character, Hamilton, having a discussion with her husband about the mission she’s considering being a part of, which boils down to a team heading to a space station to test a device they call “The Shepherd”, with which they hope to solve an energy crisis occurring on Earth. This energy crisis has driven the planet to the brink of war, which puts a great deal of pressure on our crew, who are a diverse cast from several different countries, and we watch as tensions grow with two years of failure to get a positive result from The Shepherd. During this time we also hear talk of something called “The Cloverfield Paradox”, which posits that the Hadron-collider-like “Shepherd” has as much chance of ripping apart time and space as it does of achieving the goal of limitless free energy.
In short, the real story begins when the team finally gets The Shepherd running, only for it to overload and catch fire, and when the immediate crisis has been averted, our heroes discover a sobering situation: the Earth has vanished.
Without going too deep into spoiler-territory, I will state that the Paradox, such as it is, has occurred, colliding two dimensions into each other, which causes all manner of strange and destructive occurrences in both worlds. We flash back and forth between the space crew and the original dimension’s version of Earth, on which we are lead to believe (without significant detail being revealed) that the Cloverfield incident from the original film is now occurring, offering the plausible conclusion that it was the Shepherd’s overload that caused the kaiju-creature to appear on Earth in the first place. This explanation – such as it is – is a fair enough one, that begins to piece together answers to some of the questions that we’ve all had since the viral marketing scheme for Cloverfield first overtook the internet, although Paradox hardly goes into significant detail on this matter.
On the space station we join the crew as they desperately work out how they are going to get home, while all manner of strange events begin to take place as a result of their time-and-space-warping misadventure.
At this point it becomes nearly impossible to discuss the plot further without risking major spoilers, so instead lets look at some pros and cons, keeping in mind that these are my opinions and if you disagree, good for you!
Pro: Though it seems that many disagree with me, I personally thought the cast was top-notch. I enjoyed their performances for the overwhelming part, and enjoyed the diverse group of characters.
Con: While I enjoyed the performances for the most part, I have to admit that the space-crew’s reactions to their predicaments weren’t always as extreme as I would imagine they should be. In particular, when the extremely odd and unbelievable occurrences being to crop up, their level of acceptance is unfathomable. In short, in a few places, the crew definitely should have been freaking the hell out, where they mostly gape, blink, and move forward.
Pro: The weirdness was extremely fun, with some of the incidents making me giggle like a fool, and others making me wish I could borrow the imaginations of whoever came up with those scenes. This one might actually be a con for some people, who would hope for a more serious tone with events grounded in the realm of reality, but I enjoyed the creative craziness.
Con: None of that creative craziness is explained in the slightest, which can be pretty frustrating for anyone (like me) who likes explanations. As we began watching the movie I posited to Jason that this was going to be the kind of movie that says, “see, we literally broke reality, so we don’t have to explain anything!” And that’s exactly what happened. The closest we get to an explanation is “two dimensions existing at once and fighting for the same space”, but that doesn’t even come close to making any sense of some of the strange things that occur on the space station. So if you’re hoping for answers, I’ll warn you now that you’re not going to get any. At least not any satisfying ones.
Pro: The events of the movie do shed a little bit of light on how the Cloverfield monster came to New York city in the first place, which is something we’ve all been wondering about for years now.
Con: But it also opens up several more questions that are not answered by the end of the film. This seems to be a running theme with all three movies, and makes me think – unfortunately so – that we’re never going to get anything close to any real answers by the conclusion of the franchise.
All in all, it’s difficult to explain exactly what I found appealing about the movie without ruining big moments for whomever has yet to watch it, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed it. I thought it was fun; a wild and weird sci-fi, creepy at times, upsetting at times, and definitely a little mind-blowing at times. It had its flaws, and I’ll readily admit that the number of unanswered questions by the end make me want to scream, but I still enjoyed it for the most part. If you can turn your brain off for a little while and accept that the movie is more about having fun with warping reality than actually explaining anything in a straightforward manner, then you might enjoy it too.