Netflix pulled off a pretty neat gimmick last night by dropping the trailer for The Cloverfield Paradox and then nonchalantly telling viewers, “Oh by the way, the movie goes live after the game, TONIGHT.” No teaser trailers months ahead of time, no extended viral marketing campaign, no press junkets or press screenings. The streaming behemoth dropped the movie into our laps and said have at it. It was a baller move, and one that no doubt helped distract from the obvious-that this was a flawed film Paramount wanted to get rid of before taking a financial bath marketing a film with some obvious problems. For Netflix, it was a no lose proposition. They got their hands on a name brand property and created a massive buzz by going all in on the “day and date” release strategy.
This won’t be a full review of The Cloverfield Paradox. Chances are if you stayed up late after the game, you watched the film already. As a straight-to-streaming title, it’s fun and has it’s moments. It has a great cast, with Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyelowo and Zhang Ziyi doing all they can to boost the muddled plot and ludicrous dialogue as best they can. The film never quite forts out if it wants to be hard sci/fi or gross out space horror, and the viewer can be forgiven if they thought they were watching an Event Horizon sequel. Still, it has more than it’s share of moments, and it’s a fun piece of popcorn cinema.
The big question is how The Cloverfield Paradox fits into the Cloverfield films as a whole. The answer is pretty straightforward: The film is shoehorned into the J.J. Abrahms sci-fi monster universe. The film was conceived as its own entity titled The God Particle, before Abrams swoooped in and had it retooled to fit the franchise. A hokey news segment is the most obvious bit of finagling for fit up until the last few seconds of the movie where a supersized kaiju monster rears its ugly head. There are other moments here and there, including a side story with one character navigating through carnage of unexplained origins.
All of this is fine and dandy, but it would be nice to get these anthology films to have something that feels concrete and planned out when it comes to making these loose connections. 10 Cloverfield Lane benefited by being an outright fantastic movie anchored by some of the always reliable John Goodman’s best work. By the time the third act rolled around, I found myself so engrossed in the struggle between the three principles, I had forgotten about any connection to the 2008 film at all. That doesn’t happen here, as waiting for the shoes to drop and the connective tissue to line up hovers over the whole film.
It’s interesting to see what’s going to happen next. The word is the fourth film, Cloverfield: Overlord is already finished. This one is set during WWII, and has a band of American soldiers taking on supernatural Nazi experiments. Who knows what marketing gimmicks are in store.
Ultimately The Cloverfield Paradox will be best remembered as the movie that got Film Twitter losing their minds during the Super Bowl. Netflix gets all the kudos in the world for trying something new and different, and exciting. It’s a shame that rather than providing a satisfying answer as to how these films all connect, it best answered why Paramount was so eager to dump the film off in the first place.