The major complaint from those that were disappointed by the original CLOVERFIELD is the scarcity of the actual monster that lays waste to New York City. While I do understand when filmgoers flock to see a giant monster movie they want to see a lot more of the monster, CLOVERFIELD was never really about the creature. What the film was really about was the relationship between the two main characters and how — when disaster occurs—their love for each other becomes the only thing that truly matters. The film’s spin-off, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, remained similar to its predecessor in the sense that it’s not really about an alien invasion, and leaves nearly all of the actual invasion off screen. The film instead focused on the struggles of the main character and how she learns to not run away from her problems. While the third film in the series, THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX is similarly about something other than a disaster on a space station, this time we get quite a bit of the actual station.
Most of the film is seen through the eyes of Ava and Michael Hamilton, a young couple who despite a recent tragedy that is alluded to, are still very much in love. We join them as they wait in an enormous line for gas in a scene that seems to echo the American oil crisis of 1973. The Earth is quite simply running out of energy. As they deal with the crisis surrounding them, they have to deal with the crisis between them as well. Ava is being courted by NASA to join an international crew aboard the space station Cloverfield in an attempt to solve Earth’s energy crisis once and for all. While it’s quite understandable that she can’t bear to leave him behind on Earth, Michael insists in the belief that she’s the only one qualified to fill the role. What would you do? Would you risk not seeing the person you love for years for the greater good? If you decided to stay would they resent you for it? It’s important to Michael that Ava fulfills his perceived destiny for her and save the world. Needless to say she sacrifices their time together and becomes a part of the mission. When that mission goes horribly wrong the crisis in space only exacerbates the crisis on Earth and the one between them.
Much of the first hour of the film plays out like a horror film as a malfunction of the particle accelerator causes unnatural havoc on not only the crew members but the inhabitants of Earth as well. Mass becomes rearranged causing bizarre predicaments such as an unknown crewmate appearing out of nowhere embedded in the ship’s wall and a severed hand leaving important messages to the crew. Back on Earth, Michael flees the city after rescuing a child as something unseen destroys everything he leaves behind. As the film cuts back and forth between Earth and Cloverfield Station, we are constantly reminded that Ava and Michael have no idea about each others current fate as each of them make their way through the situation. We watch as they struggle to put their feelings aside and do what needs to be done. If the first CLOVERFIELD is about two people’s love for each other becoming all that matters then THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX is about putting your own love for someone aside for the greater good of others. Not very different than what a soldier has to do during a time of war, knowing they may never see their loved one again.
I do have to admit that without its connection to the other two films, THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX would seem to resemble most films featuring a crew trapped on a space station. While the movie doesn’t seem to force-feed this connection, we are given enough information to understand the consequences of what is happening. Some viewers might find it frustrating that every little detail wasn’t explained, but I appreciated it. Much like the first film, the scenes on Earth focus only on what the characters are going through instead of what’s attacking everyone. If anything like this actually happened in reality, most people wouldn’t even get a good look at what’s taking place being that they would logically be running in the opposite direction. This gives the film a kind of intimacy and even a somewhat claustrophobic effect. The “bottle episode” nature of the scenes in space only add to this claustrophobia. In the few instances when the film does widen it’s scope it doesn’t falter as a result. The final shot is as breathtaking as it is terrifying.
Much like its two predecessors, the film wisely focuses on the characters instead of the disasters happening around them. This may be frustrating to some people, but it wouldn’t really be a CLOVERFIELD movie if it didn’t. After all, if a movie with a bigger scope and more explosions is really what you want, then isn’t that what Michael Bay is for?
Tags: Aksel Hennie, Bad Robot Productions, Bear McCreary, Chris O'Dowd, Cloverfield, Dan Mindel, Daniel Brühl, David Oyelowo, Donal Logue, Elizabeth Debicki, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, J.J. Abrams, John Ortiz, Julius Onah, Netflix, Oren Uziel, The Cloverfield Paradox, Zhang Ziyi