Spoilers want you to buy their book.
Very recently I said that mostly I rate movies on their own save for a few exceptions. Well… Here’s one. Yes, I watched this as a standalone since that is its original concept but then there’s the connection to a certain other movie that will be coming up. This movie has its moments, which are usually when it’s doing its own thing. Whether the connection to its bigger franchise aid it or hurt it is definitely going to come up here. In the end, it’s more of a light reference to a shared world, but as we will see not necessarily the same timeline.
The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) was directed by Julius Onah and written by Oren Uziel and Doug Jung. It is produced by J. J. Abrams and Lindsay Weber. The world is facing an energy crisis. All hopes lie in the Shepard particle accelerator being tested in the Cloverfield Station orbiting Earth. It’s an international crew (three guesses as to which nation is in command and the first two don’t count). We have Ava Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) as the British communications officer, Jason Kiel (David Oyelowo) as the American commander, Ernst Schmidt (Daniel Brühl) as the German physicist, Monk Acosta (John Ortiz) as the Brazilian medical officer, Gordon Mundy (Chris O’Dowd) as the Irish engineer, Sasha Volkov (Aksel Hennie) as the Russian engineer and Ling Tam (Zhang Ziyi) as the Chinese engineer.
Ava is our heroine and point-of-view character. She’s married to Michael (Roger Davies) who is a physician back on Earth. The crew has gone through two years of failed attempts to fire the Shepard successfully. We meet them as they ready to fire it one more time with remaining resources for only two more shots. As they do, we witness a broadcast that Monk is watching on his screen. It’s an interview with a scientist and conspiracy theorist named Stambler (Donal Logue) that thinks that the particle accelerator might cause a dimensional rift and strange creatures might spill out.
This is where you can see certain things tacked on. The whole interview between Mark Stambler (Logue), brother of Howard Stambler (John Goodman) from 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016), and the newscaster Leslie (Suzanne Cryer) who also appeared in that movie, is complete foreboding but also a spoiler within the movie. The two most possible outcomes of a particle accelerator is that it doesn’t work or that it breaks down. The result in this movie’s universe is that suddenly the Earth does no longer appear. The conclusion that they’re in a different dimension gets reached rather quickly. I would have preferred a deeper mystery here.
The connection to the other Cloverfield movies is not jammed in, but it’s a layer you can easily ignore. The cues and clues to the other films don’t do a lot for this movie, and the supposed origin of the actual creature/creature(s) is not the subject of the film. The film follows the crew as they travel to another dimension / parallel universe but we’re left to our own devices as to how the particle accelerator brought or generated these creatures. Or you can just say the particle accelerator was a coincidence and it was the arrival of the pod at the end. You can retcon this as you wish, but there’s nothing in the movie that benefits from the connection. Perhaps it gave it some clout on ticket sales, but that’s not something I focus on.
The movie has some great moments. The appearance of Jensen (Elizabeth Debicki) being the alternate crew member from this dimension works well as the ambiguous friend / antagonist. Mundy(Chris O’Dowd) acting as the audience surrogate and saying what we’re all thinking lets off some tension before we ready for the next emergency. However, it does have rather strange flaws. There’s an arm that still moves on its own. The film also has Zhang Ziyi in its cast but doesn’t give her much to do. The ending has probably the biggest forced reference that does not fit with the beginning of the original film. To be honest, it doesn’t have to. Yes, we can retcon the timeline and say that some things happen in a different order than the movie’s run or that the timeline has been altered, but I think it really doesn’t make an impact. You can still put everything in the same place without a direct connection.
Recommended with some reservations. I think you can pretty much ignore the Cloverfield connection and just watch it as a standalone, or you can watch it to catch the hints and cues. If you like retconning exercises, you can try to see how it fits with the other films, but sometimes it’s almost intentionally out of sync. As a solo movie, it’s watchable and I’d say it could have fared on its own. As a part of a cinematic universe, don’t expect any explanations – those have to come from you. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you are invested already.
That will do for now.