Can You Explain This Cloverfield Paradox Thing?
I am betwixt and between as to how to bring this Cloverfield Paradox to you. 99% of you will come to it in your Netflix home screen when it is recommended to you. And you see that it’s a movie about space, and freaky freaky, so you dive in. Right? BUT THAT ISN’T WHAT THIS MOVIE IS. Cloverfield Paradox is just one movie in a larger universal vision from the creative mind of J. J. Abrams. And I have very very clear opinions of Cloverfield Paradox, but I can’t tell you those opinions until you learn a little more about Cloverfield Proper first. Yes, there will be schooling involved. And if you are familiar, if you are up to date on what Cloverfield is, by all means, skip down to the Cloverfield Paradox Explained section of this post. Maybe a Ctrl+F will help? hahaha.
But simply put, Cloverfield Paradox is actually an origin movie about the Cloverfield Universe. And 80% of you are now like… the Cloverfield WHAT? What’s a cloverfield? And why does it have a universe? So let me just back up a quick second and walk you through what a Cloverfield is, and what the heck the Cloverfield universe even is.
The Cloverfield Universe
Normally when I do movie reviews, I do a high level overview of the movie, and then do a deep dive into the actual goings on of the movie. But this time, we gotta chat some about the universe a bit, and THEN we will dive into the specific goings on of the movie proper. This section won’t have any spoilers per se to this movie. (I hope.)
So when the original movie launched, Cloverfield, J.J. Abrams worked extremely hard to build out the world of Cloverfield and the ARG world surrounding the movie. And when 10 Cloverfield Lane arrived at the theater even more ARG-ness hit us and pealed back the layers of this particular onion even further. For those of you still confused as to ARG, it means Alternate Reality Game, and it just means that the production company of the movie has gone out into the world and dropped Easter eggs all over the real world. Think apps, websites, real world ads, etc etc for fictional companies, organizations and entities within their movie properties.
FOR EXAMPLE, if Disney were to ARG a movie, like, I don’t know, Mary Poppins, maybe they would build an app for Burt’s Chimney Sweep Service. On said app, you learn that Burt has a company of 27 chimney sweeps. And that Burt is considering opening a branch in Wales, or wherever. Which is a pretty banal example.
Many of the websites in the Cloverfield universe were: 1-18-08.com, Slusho!, Tagruato, T.I.D.O. Wave. They are all pretty much gone now. But on these sites we were able to not just see the employees of these companies, but also you were able to “Hack” some of them, and see some of the back office conversations from these companies. And the interoffice memos that the employees were sending about events that happened in the movie.
And through this ARG information (most easily consumed and found via Reddit as opposed to attempting to assemble it yourself, case in point… after 10 Cloverfield, the ARG went so full tilt as to send a Reddit user out to a location in a field in Texas and dig up a box and find recordings and so on and so on.) we have learned a lot about the Cloverfield Universe.
When Cloverfield, the movie, dropped on us it assumed alot, and told us only a little. All we knew was that there as a massive monster running through New York and we had a kid with a non-steady cam running away from an indistinct and misunderstood threat. But through the ARG we learned that the company behind the original threat was Tagruato. Kantaro Tagruato began the company as a mining facility that evolved into new and different diverse products. There were concerned centered around child labor law violations, and ecological disasters, etc. And eventually Tagruato committed suicide. A bit later, a man named Ganu Yoshida bought the company, fired the employees and took the company back towards the drilling side of the company’s roots. 13 drilling stations were created and simultaneously they launched a new drink, called the Slusho! (Cloverfield Paradox tie ins yet anyone?) Apparently one ingredient of the Slusho! was something they called “seabed’s nectar”.
Then in 2007 an employee of Tagruato had an “amazing discovery”. But they died a few days later. There was a hug cover up about this death, and also his wife, daughter and granddaughter also died. Some blamed their deaths on a gas explosion.
But then, soon after, a new drilling station was opened near New York – the Chaui Station. About that same time, the company sent their first satellite into space called the Hagsui with a brilliant camera for taking photos of deep-sea trenches. It was opaque though as to why the company was tracking deep sea trenches and what that had to do with anything at all. Enter TIDO Wave and the ecological environmental group that rose up to counter Tagruato. Around the world they began challenging the companies mining efforts and the shady nature of the site around the world.
All of this information came from ARG sites and from recordings dug up from the ground and from official Cloverfield Wiki’s about the movies that J.J. has released under the Cloverfield banner. And literally, this rabbit hole goes deeper and deeper and deeper. And I’ll stop there because it ripples out further and further into conjecture. If this line of logic is half as interesting to you as it is to me, feel free to check the Cloverfield Arg Reddit out and some of their crazier theories.
BUT WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH CLOVERFIELD PARADOX?
So glad you ask. That brings us to J.J. Abrams’ vision for the Cloverfield universe. He has built us a framework under which he can fly a million different Sci-Fi movies. But why? How? Cloverfield was such a different movie. THAT is what this movie clarifies. How is it that 10 Cloverfield can fly under the Cloverfield banner. It also explains itself, how Cloverfield Paradox, can fit in this universe. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is a good plan by Abrams. Or that I like it. I’m just saying that it logically makes sense. But I’ll get to that at the end.
Overview of the Cloverfield Paradox
Which now brings us to the movie at hand (FINALLY!). But first, I have to say, I don’t want to be talking to those of you that haven’t seen the movie yet. Go away. I don’t want any crap from those of you who haven’t seen it yet and OH MY GOSH HE SPOILED IT!! No no no, none of that. So do me a favor, watch this trailer, and then go out to Netflix and watch it.
The opening of the movie is actually one of the single most important scenes we are given. We meet Michael and Hamilton as they discuss the horrendous state of the union around the world. Power has come to a sudden tipping point and the world was not finding new ways to generate power. And there was some very significant impact of this reality for Michael and Hamilton. Something horrible had happened to them related to this reality. But as luck would have it, Hamilton is being asked to join a space mission, a highly dangerous mission in order to generate power in space, the only place remote enough to spin this power generator up. What is this miracle McGuffin you ask? It is the Shepherd Particle Accelerator, and that is really all we know about it. So Hamilton is told by Michael to go on the mission, and so she does. But remember that detail. It’ll be important later.
Cut to: Space, where several key resources have been sent out to the accelerator in an attempt to get it started. So they jump start the accelerator and it immediately fizzles. No idea why. Jump forward 2 years and hundreds of attempts later, and it is still not working. But as luck would have it, just before the Earth completely runs out of energy entirely, the Shepherd Particle Accelerator pops to life. Only bad thing? They’ve managed to catapult themselves to the other side of the sun. And not only that? But all kinds of craziness begins happening simultaneously.
They find a human woman buried in the wall. Wires, cables, poles, embedded in her skin. She is Mina Jensen and she knows the crew. They also begin experiencing other crazy, unexplainable details. New members of the crew start showing up that know lots about them, and the current crew know nothing about them. And they are stating that other members of the crew can’t be trusted because of global politics down on the ground. Like, “Don’t trust Schmidt, he is attempting to keep the Shepherd offline until Russia was neutralized.” And the like. Other members of the crew lose their arm through the wall, and they find it elsewhere wandering down the hall… of it’s own free volition. And begins writing them notes.
Now, I’ll pause here and say that this is where the backstory gives you one heck of an enormous leg up on the rest of the movie viewers. If you are saying to yourself, THIS MAKES ZERO SENSE WHATSOEVER. None! You haven’t seen the other two movies and you don’t get where the larger story is heading. But since I’ve given some of that to you already, you might be in a better place to begin guessing at what J.J. is up to.
But let’s not get distracted here! Because we’ve just found the Shepherd’s important gyroscope that had gone missing… and where was it? Yeah, it was in Volkov’s gut. Gross. And after the ship’s important systems come online, they learn that the real Shepherd, well, the Shepherd for this reality anyway, has crashed on earth. They learn that war has been raging for over 14 months. And soon enough, after more and more crew members die, they finally figure out what has been keeping the Shepherd from working. It was CONDENSATION that was causing the glitch. Ok? heheh.
Eventually we learn that Hamilton had accidentally killed her two daughters in a fire by giving them a hacked power supply cell for their reading lamps. Apparently power is so hard to come by, everyone is doing everything they can to get whatever power that they can. Which is also why she had chosen to come on this mission. Michael was the only one left there on earth, otherwise she wouldn’t have gone. Which, is a pretty important distinction. Because through Mina, the crew member that showed up out of nowhere, that Hamilton’s daughters are actually still alive back in this reality’s Earth. So Hamilton momentarily decides she is not going back to her earth, but down to this earth in an escape pod.
Now, I have to stop for a second and plug a movie for you. If you have yet to see the movie Coherence, Cloverfield Paradox takes this idea of multi-reality-dimensional-paradoxes to an 8 and Coherence decimates the scale at a 27. It’s a brilliant low budget thrill fest in this regard. One that I can’t recommend to you enough. So think this scenario with Hamilton through for a moment. She is now in another reality, a different space time, one inhabited by her daughters who didn’t die from a fire. This other space time reality also has another her in it. And this Hamilton prime, or Hamilton1 is hellbent on seeing her daughters again. Prime will help get the Shepherd up and running again, and then Mina and Prime will abandon ship, back down to the surface of earth where her still living children await her. Sort of. Will she voyeuristically watch from afar? Or will she attempt to replace Hamilton2? We don’t know because she changes her mind. But it’s an interesting question, one that I promise you, promise, promise, promise, will be important in future Cloverfield movies.
Back to the action – the astronauts decide they need enough power to jump start the Hamilton, and so they turn off the power to the oxygen systems. Which gives them enough power but then some sort of weird magnetism craziness causes Mundi’s soldering to attack him and then the pure oxygen in Mundy’s container to cause an explosion. Which then causes the maintenance ring to spin off its axis, which then threatens to destroy the entire space station. Jensen then attempts to steal the launch keys for the shepherd to not allow a potentionally working Shepherd to leave her reality. (The Shepherd in her reality was destroyed, remember?) We get one last anti-climatic battle between Jensen and Himilton. After which, Hamilton sends a message to herself telling her to get rid of the power-cell and to hold onto her children no matter what.
And with that, she powers the Shepherd up, and launches with the Hamilton1 back to true reality. A minute later, we hear Michael being notified that the Shepherd is back, and that Hamilton is back. And his response?
“TELL THEM NOT TO COME BACK!!!”
And it ends with a view of a particular shot of a monster stepping up out of the clouds.
So Lets Explain Some Cloverfield Problems & Solutions
Let’s explain that ending for those of you that were wondering what that monster was all about. Simply put, the Shepherd unleashed the monster. But did it look familiar to you? It was the exact same alien/monster from the original Cloverfield movie. Ok? Simple enough.
Now, the first, and biggest problem? Cloverfield Paradox, the movie, happens in the future. Like literally and fictionally. I’m searching the interwebs, but am not finding when it is set… but we can definitely say that even if it is 2018, it’s set in the future ahead of 10 Cloverfield Lane and Cloverfield. The Shepherd unleashes the Kaiju (which is the monster from the original movie, or the Clover) in Earth Prime or Earth1 and we know this from the horrible time that Michael is going through before they actually return. And we can surmise that the Kaiju are also released in Earth2 as well. But when the Shepherd returns the Kaiju is still there. And so ok, the Clover is on Earth1 and Earth2 in 2018, but how did it get there back in 2008 when we first saw it in the original Cloverfield? But the logic that saves us isn’t actually in the movie itself, but rather in the tag-line itself: “The Future Unleashed Everything”
The only way that that is possible is if the Shepherd manages to cause rifts across several different dimensional explosions across several different timelines, and different versions of reality. So not only did the Shepherd rift across realities, but across time. Which means? This is the Genesis moment of Cloverfield even though it occurred AFTER the original. If that makes sense.
Problem number 2 is simple enough. When the crew jump-started the Shepherd the first time they bounced from reality 1 to reality 2, right? And when they launched the Shepherd the second time, all they were doing was to trying to restore themselves and reality. But while they may have jumped back to reality 2, they didn’t vanquish the Clover. It’s as if they’d managed to travel back but pandoras box have been opened and nothing was closing it. But this is a movie entitled Cloverfield Paradox. Does that make sense? I don’t know, do you understand how this could possibly tie together all three movies? Maybe you have your own theories of how it might work?
But Was Cloverfield Paradox Any Good?
Meh. Cloverfield Paradox is 6 years in the making. SIX YEARS. And I’ve been curious about it for the last 4. When rumors first hit the internet about the film it was entitled The God Particle. And it seemed like it was an Alien-esque mind job of a film. So I was in. But then J. J. Abrams signed on, and rumors abounded that Particle was in trouble… and J. J. was the closer in to save it. And then came news that he was marrying The God Particle into the Cloverfield universe? Um. Ok? I guess? And then you begin to wonder if maybe Cloverfield was just a B-league move to save C-league movies… hrm. Personally, I adored Cloverfield. Loved the story, the backstory, the mythology, the cinematography (which not many loved), everything. But maybe it really is just a magnet for struggling films. And then to have Cloverfield Paradox sprung on the world at the end of the Superbowl and immediately available on Netflix? Not the theater? Just smacked of an admission that they were struggling.
Anyway, I thought it was ok. I enjoyed the tie ins to the other movies that you could spot if you were eagle eyed. And I was excited to see the Clover released. But as far as a stand alone movie, it was fairly meh. I am not recommending it to any of my personal friends, even the ones I saw the original Cloverfield in the movie theater with. If that tells you anything. But maybe I’m being too critical. What did you think of it?