The Cloverfield Paradox

In a case of both Netflix and the Cloverfield franchise outdoing themselves, the trailer for The Cloverfield Paradox finally premiered during the Super Bowl and it announced that the movie would be premiering that very night after the game on Netflix. This is just par for the course for the Cloverfield films, which have a history of mystery box marketing for the films that often start out as something else. In fact, The Cloverfield Paradox was already filming under the title God Particle before it was decided that it would be integrated into the Cloverfield universe. Producer J.J. Abrams explained how the Cloverfield-ing came about, saying:

Bad Robot got a hold of the script and we started to think, 'What are ways that this might fit into the world?' But when we started shooting the movie, it was still something we were thinking about. Because the idea for the Cloverfield series was, like I said earlier, not so much that it be this narrative throughline, but more that they be these really fun sort of thrill rides. Like, if you imagine an amusement park, that's a Cloverfield amusement park, and every ride has a different purpose, but they all kind of connect in some way or another.

It was while we were shooting that we were making adjustments. This was a movie that went through many sort of different iterations as we went along. There are some studios that do that as a practice, and we really hadn't before... literally the idea of expanding the story of Gugu's husband Rogers' character literally came because people were saying, 'We want to see more.' So we started to explore that. And we ended up writing and shooting that sequence too.

There is a lot that J.J. Abrams says here in a Facebook Q&A for the film that speaks to how cool the Cloverfield universe is and also reflects why The Cloverfield Paradox fell short of expectations for many fans. After the first two films bearing the Cloverfield brand came out, many suspected that these stories were part of a multiverse. And the creative team felt the story in God Particle certainly seemed like it could be a good fit for the Cloverfield universe. I also really like J.J. Abrams' description of the Cloverfield series as an amusement park. I would use the term theme park, but his point is well taken. Each film operates as a different ride, taking the audience on a different exciting journey, but there is a consistent theme throughout that links each of the rides together. Maybe not narratively, but at least spiritually and thematically. The lack of need for narrative continuity allows for a film to become a Cloverfield movie during production without screwing up the universe.

While it might seem like a bad policy to be deciding if a film is one thing or another while shooting, it doesn't necessarily have to be. A film doesn't have to be conceived as a part of the Cloverfield universe from the beginning in order to fit well within the universe while still telling its own self-contained, compelling story. 10 Cloverfield Lane began life as Valencia before receiving a fresh coat of Cloverfield paint and that film went on to become the very best this series has produced, in my opinion. We have heard that the script for The Cloverfield Paradox was changing during production and J.J. Abrams confirms that this was basically an ever-changing film. So much so that even the actors didn't know at first that the film they had signed on to had become a part of the Cloverfield universe, as David Oyelowo explained:

I'll be honest, when I first signed on to it, it wasn't necessarily a Cloverfield movie. As J.J. was saying, during the course of shooting -- I never really found out at what point [that changed]... I remember the day that [J.J.] said, 'By the way, you know we're working on this thing and you do know that this is...' and I went, 'Oh! That's what we're doing!'

Normally you want your actors to really understand what they are working on, but Cloverfield is a different animal. To me these films should work as standalone films with different titles that you never have to know belong to the Cloverfield universe. By slapping on that title and leaving a few breadcrumbs and Easter eggs laying about, fans coul speculate and theorize about the connections.

Unfortunately, The Cloverfield Paradox fell short of some fan and certainly critic expectations. Part of that may have been related to the on-the-fly process J.J. Abrams described. Expanding the story of Roger Davies' Michael proved one of the film's fatal flaws in that it explicitly tied Paradox to the original Cloverfield and ruined much of the mystery. This tacking on of elements to an original film in order to explain the events of the first Cloverfield made Paradox feel more like a direct prequel than an entry that could stand by itself. The Cloverfield series has succeeded thus far because of its mysteries; however, The Cloverfield Paradox was more interested in giving us answers. Hopefully the inevitable Cloverfield 4 will prove another fun and mysterious ride in the Cloverfield theme park when it arrives later this year.

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