(DANGER, WILL ROBINSON. SPOILERS AHEAD) What is a paradox? A paradox is a statement that seems to contradict itself, but seems to be true. The statement, “This is statement is false” is a classic example of a paradox. If the statement is true then it’s not false. However, if the statement is false than the statement is true. A famous paradox in science is the paradox of the twin brothers. One travels through space at a high rate of speed while the other stays on earth. The paradox is would one be older than the other? The answer lies within a bunch of science, physics, and other things we don’t have time nor the education to go into (but it has a lot to do with Einstein and Special Relativity). There are a lot of paradoxes to be found in science.
The paradox in The Cloverfield Paradox is that it belongs in the Cloverfield universe at the same time it doesn’t belong in the Cloverfield universe. What do we mean by this most perplexing of perplexing questions? It’s simple really.
The Cloverfield Paradox is a standard science-fiction movie complete with standard science-fiction tropes. An international crew of brainiacs are recruited by an unnamed international NASA like body to save planet earth. In a movie like Danny Boyle’s Sunshine the international crew’s job was to reignite the dying sun. In Julius Onah’s Cloverfield Paradox the international crew’s mission is to spin up a particle accelerator called The Shepard. The Shepard is earth’s only hope to solve earth’s energy crisis.
It should be no surprise that nothing goes right once the accelerator is up and running. There wouldn’t be too much of a movie if nothing went wrong, but more importantly stick-in-the-mud Mark Stambler, played by Donal Logue (Gotham), explains exactly what’s going to happen once the Shepard is turned on. Stambler basically rips off the same list of potential hazardous conspiracy theorists said would happen when the Large Hadron Collider was fired up– Black holes being created, tears in the fabric of the universe, or another Big Bang ending life in the entire universe. What happens is the space station and crew are flung into an alternate universe.
The only reason we’re all talking about The Cloverfield Paradox is the one word in front of Paradox, “Cloverfield.” If JJ Abrams hadn’t moved in and slapped a Cloverfield on the property it would have been just another trouble in space movie. Whatever this earlier incarnation would have been called it would still have been a good movie. It may not have been a blockbuster hit and with the relatively unknown cast it would be surprising if it wasn’t a direct to streaming/dvd release.
However, there is enough crazy going on in the movie it would have been just as much fun without the Cloverfield tag. A crew member, Mundy (Chris O’Dowd), loses an arm that starts to crawl around the hallways of the station. Volkov, (played by Aksel Hennie, check him out in the awesome Headhunters) vomits up worms only after the things have traveled and dug through his innards. Jensen, one of the crew members of the current earth’s space station, is found fused inside a wall. Even if it all sounds familiar, like Commander Kiel (David Oyelowo, Selma) sacrificing himself for the crew or Hamilton (Guga Mbatha-Raw, Belle) learning her dead children are still alive on the alternate earth, The Cloverfield Paradox is still fun and entertaining to watch.
With the Cloverfield tag on the movie Abrams has opened new possibilities and the chance to do something different with a franchise. Most franchises crank one movie out after another following the same formula. Some franchises, like the Insidious franchise, try to carry the same story from sequel to sequel and then into a prequel. Ultimately, as in the case of the Saw, the franchise fizzles out. Rarely does a franchise prove to be as smart and successful as a Planet of the Apes or a James Bond.
As Phil Hornshaw and Phil Owen of the Wrap explain, Abrams has created a movie franchise unlike any other movie franchise we’ve seen. The malfunctioning Shepard in The Cloverfield Paradox created the alternate realities where each of the three Cloverfield movies occur. This would explain why Cloverfield doesn’t mention anything about an energy crisis or space stations or space stations falling from orbit. It would also explain why in The Cloverfield Paradox we see Howard’s (John Goodman) fallout shelter from 10 Cloverfield Lane, but no Howard. Furthermore, a rip in reality that also affects time would explain the upcoming Cloverfield movie being set during World War II. The possibilities would seem endless as to what Abrams could do with the Cloverfield franchise.
Some people have complained Abrams is simply buying completed movies and then adding Cloverfield connections. This may be true, but in the case of both 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Cloverfield Paradox those added connections are brilliantly executed. Hamilton’s husband, Michael, guides us through an alternate London being destroyed by unseen monsters. All we hear are the screams and roars of the monsters. Unlike the shaky camera nightmare of Cloverfield the unseen monsters actually work for the betterment of the movie. He’s also the one that leads us to the very familiar fallout shelter.
Other critics have shot down The Cloverfield Paradox. The reasons range from the movie being silly to shoddy. These critics completley miss the point of the movie. We’re not watching because it was ever going to be nominated for an award or for the amazing acting. We watch a movie like The Cloverfield Paradox because it’s a fun movie and because a lot of people out there like to make connections to the previous Cloverfield movies when the connection is weak at best. We watch movies like The Cloverfield Paradox because sometimes, even when the movie borrows from every other trouble in space movie, we want to turn our brains off. The “critics” miss the point that it’s a movie in the Cloverfield franchise, a franchise that started the shaky, found footage movies being cranked out on a daily basis and anything is better than the countless cases of nausea Cloverfield has caused.