Warning: Major SPOILERS for Cloverfield and The Cloverfield Paradox ahead
Ten years after the release of Matt Reeves’ thrilling found-footage sci-fi movie Cloverfield, the origins of its massive and nigh-indestructible monster have finally been explained: it’s a creature from another dimension! During Super Bowl LII, Netflix dropped the very first trailer for the third movie in the somewhat disjointed Cloverfield universe, titled The Cloverfield Paradox, along with the surprise announcement of a release date… that same day! Yes, The Cloverfield Paradox arrived out of nowhere on Netflix shortly after the game, and fans of the franchise quickly scrambled to watch it.
The first follow-up to Cloverfield was Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, which was set almost entirely in an underground bunker where creepy survivalist Howard (John Goodman) was keeping a young woman called Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) trapped in an effort to protect her from some kind of apocalyptic event happening outside. The Cloverfield Paradox (directed by Julius Onah) is set in the year 2028, and depicts a future where limited fuel resources have brought humanity to the brink of global warfare. The planet’s last hope is a space station called Cloverfield, staffed by an international team of astronauts and equipped with a particle accelerator that has the potential to provide unlimited energy. Unfortunately, that potential also comes with a risk of ripping a hole in time and space.
Predictably, something goes wrong and the astronauts find themselves stranded in space with no way to figure out where they are, since the Earth has seemingly vanished. To make matters worse, things are not quite right aboard the ship: their collection of worms disappears and then rematerializes inside someone’s body; a mysterious woman appears inside a wall; and one crew member’s arm gets sucked into a wall, disappears, and then reappears elsewhere on the ship with a mind of its own. When the crew finally manage to relocate the Earth, they soon realize that it’s not their Earth. They’ve travelled to an alternate dimension where their space station crashed two days previously, and the planet has been in the midst of a global fuel war for fourteen months.
So, where does the Cloverfield monster come into all this? Well, back on Earth-1, crew member Ava Hamilton’s (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) husband Michael (Roger Davies) finds himself trapped in the middle of an unexplained disaster. It eventually transpires that Earth is under attack – not just by one monster rampaging through Manhattan, but many monsters. The movie ends with Ava and her fellow crew member Schmidt (Daniel Brühl) returning to Earth in a shuttle, but instead of being happy that his wife is coming home, Michael is horrified. “Have you lost your mind?” he demands, on the phone to Ava’s NASA contact. “You’re having her come back to these things? Tell them not to come back!”
The final shot of the movie shows the escape shuttle descending through the clouds… and then an enormous monster – similar to, but much larger than the one in Cloverfield – bursts out through the clouds and roars. Compared to the size of the shuttle, and based on the fact that it’s tall enough to stick its head up through the clouds, this monster appears to be even bigger than Godzilla in the 2014 movie reboot – and that Godzilla stood at an estimated 350 feet. If there are many of these monsters on Earth, it’s easy to understand why Michael didn’t want Ava to come back.
The obvious question that presents itself is this: if the incident that brought the monsters to Earth happened in 2028, why was Manhattan attacked in 2008 – two decades earlier? That explanation comes hand-in-hand with the explanation that the movie offers for the monsters’ origins: they’re from another dimension. At the beginning of the movie the crew of the Cloverfield watch a news interview with a theorist called Mark Stambler (Donal Logue), who has a book called The Cloverfield Paradox that outlines the dangers of the Shepard particle accelerator. He gives a shorter explanation in the TV interview:
“That accelerator is 1000 times more powerful than any ever built. Every time they test it, they risk ripping open the membrane of space-time, smashing together multiple dimensions, shattering reality. And not just on that station, everywhere. This experiment could unleash chaos the likes of which we have never seen. Monsters, demons, beasts from the sea… And not just here and now. In the past, in the future, in other dimensions.”
While The Cloverfield Paradox doesn’t offer a specific explanation of where exactly the monsters came from, it does rule out the theories of them being manmade, aliens from another planet, or long-buried monsters (the latter of which is the basis for the current Godzilla/King Kong cinematic universe from Legendary Entertainment and Toho). More than anything else, it resembles the mythology of the Pacific Rim movies, in which the Kaiju emerge from a dimensional tear at the bottom of the ocean. When the Cloverfield crew overloaded their particle accelerator, they not only zapped themselves to an alternate timeline and unleashed monsters upon their own Earth – they also created ripples in time that caused the 2008 attack on Manhattan. Whoops!
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