The new Netflix film The Cloverfield Paradox has had something of a remarkable life. In an unprecedented (yet perhaps inevitable) move, the streaming service dropped the film right after the Super Bowl on Monday, having only officially announced it during that very event. Since it was released, numerous articles and reddit threads have emerged, trying to connect the film to the rest of the dubbed “Cloververse” – that Cinematic Universe also containing 2008’s Cloverfield and 2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane. And for a film that purported to blow the lid off of what happened in both of these films, fans are having a hard time connecting the dots. But there seems to be a simple reason for this: the film was never intended to be part of the Cloververse at all.
Warning: Major Spoilers Follow.
The film we now know as The Cloverfield Paradox was originally called The God Particle, and as its writer Oren Uziel explained to Collider last year, it wasn’t even until the film had already entered production that Producer J.J. Abrams decided to fit in a couple of tenuous links between this story and the films that preceded it. Uziel explains,
“It was written before 10 Cloverfield Lane and the expanded Cloverfield universe even existed as a thing… I don’t know exactly when it became a Cloverfield movie, but I suspect in this current market where it’s just harder and harder to market an original movie of any kind, a science-fiction movie in particular, but I think everyone just knew if it fits—and it does—into that Cloverfield world, it should, and it can only help.”
“We rewrote during production, but I’m not sure what it means to be part of the expanded Cloverfield universe, other than knowing what kind of quality and feel you’re gonna get from something that’s coming out of Bad Robot and J.J. It just sort of helps to give an understanding of like, ‘Okay I understand what type of movie this is gonna be.’ … if that stamp of approval of being part of the Cloverfield universe is enough (to get people into cinemas), that’s a huge win. So I’m all for it. When you turn on The Twilight Zone, that’s sort of the way I think about it. I don’t know what this story is going to be, but I know it’s going to be a Twilight Zone story… It’s like an anthology for those kinds of movies, and I think if J.J., if what he’s doing is positioning himself a little bit to be the Rod Serling of J.J.-type science-fiction movies, more power to him.”
The result is a film which ultimately has just one scene (the one with the news feeds early in the film) that tries to explain the connection, an ending designed to create discussion and a couple of Easter Eggs to fit it comfortably within the “Cloververse”. And that’s all it took for this article to be written, and dozens like it. Fans love this stuff. It’s actually quite masterful (as Uziel pointed out) – by adding in just enough Easter Eggs into a couple of films, J.J. and the producers have been able to take what was an average film by any means, and make it nothing short of a success. I mean everyone is talking about a film which is essentially a direct to home video release – something which the film had been intended to be even before Cloverfield got involved.
And that late decision to insert it into the Cloververse feels so obvious during the film. There’s no discussion of “The Cloverfield Paradox” outside that one news scene. It’s just called “The Paradox”. There’s no reference to the ship being called Cloverfield. No discussion of monsters. I’d suggest that the crew probably aren’t told about the monsters on earth because that was added later. The world war and starved resources were more than enough concern in the original script, not to mention the alternate dimension – which I assume the original “paradox” focused on.
So if you’re struggling to connect the dots, and you’re reading contradictory articles all over the Internet that try to suggest that the space ship that lands at the end of the movie is the same thing we see land in the water at the end of the original film, set 20 years earlier*, with no monster in sight… stop reading and don’t worry about the connections. People have no idea what they’re talking about and are finding the whole thing as hard to fathom as you are. And that’s because there aren’t any dots to connect.
Everything you need to know is contained in a couple of lines, shown from a news feed featuring the same actress who John Goodman wouldn’t let into his cellar (suggesting 10 Cloverfield Lane was set after this film), and a writer who may be John Goodman’s brother (OK, so I’ve been reading deep into the theories too!). Here it is: The crew inadvertently opened up a rip in the space/time continuum, or something, which means that monsters could be dropped down to earth in infinite realities at any time in history. Hence a monster attacking NYC in 2008, twenty years before the events of this film*. And hence whatever happened ahead of 10 Cloverfield Lane. This henceforth permits the “Cloververse” to be set in any time, so long as it has some monsters, Kelvin references, cameos from Simon Pegg and Greg Grunberg, that Tagruato company (whose website resurfaced a couple of weeks ago) and its cola. This is indeed J.J. Abram’s version of Twilight Zone. There’s nothing remarkable to digest. But if we can get more experiences like 10 Cloverfield Lane, which was also originally an unconnected spec script, I’m all for it.
As for The Cloverfield Paradox… well ultimately it’s just a movie about a space crew who travel to an alternate reality, mostly die, and then come back to the original reality. And there’s something about some kids along the way. And that’s all it was ever meant to be. Here’s hoping this isn’t the future of the Cloverfield series. There’s more than enough mediocrity out there as it is.
The Cloverfield Paradox is streaming now on Netflix.
*The Tagruato website was decoded by some Reddit users, and in it, it was confirmed that the film is set 10 years from now. So you can take that with a grain of salt, but we’re assuming that’s canon.