(Major spoilers ahead for “The Cloverfield Paradox”)
One of the bigger developments of Super Bowl Sunday, aside from the game itself being outstanding, was the news that “The Cloverfield Paradox” (previously known as “The God Particle”) would be surprise dropping on Netflix right after the game. It was a genius move from a marketing standpoint — the number of folks who watched the movie Sunday night probably far exceeded what the movie would have done at the box office. But now that we’ve seen it, it’s left a bunch of us scratching our heads.
“Cloverfield” is a strange, nontraditional franchise. The first two movies, “Cloverfield” and “10 Cloverfield Lane,” had no apparent connection to each other whatsoever. The hope was that “The Cloverfield Paradox” would bring the whole thing together. And it certainly seems to do that, with a final shot that includes what looks an awful lot like the monster that rampaged through Manhattan in the original film.
But the answer to the question of how this movie fits with the others is way more complicated than that, and even that last shot doesn’t quite provide the concrete connection that it feels like it does at first glance.
First of all, that’s actually probably not the original “Cloverfield” monster at the end of “The Cloverfield Paradox.” While it has a head that looks pretty much the same, it’s significantly larger than the original monster. In that first film, the monster was as tall as a skyscraper — and this one’s head sticks up above the clouds. So they’re the same species, but probably not the same monster. So what does that mean?
It seems likely the key to figuring this thing out comes pretty early in the movie. The crew of the Cloverfield space station is hanging out in the rec room when a man named Mark Stambler (Donal Logue) appears on TV and starts talking about the dangers of what they’re doing up there. In case you forgot: the Cloverfield station has a particle accelerator on it intended to create a stable source of energy for the people of Earth.
“Right this minute, they are testing a particle accelerator up there, so we can learn how to make unlimited energy down here. But those who have accepted that the Cloverfield Paradox is real know how dangerous that is,” Stambler says.
“Because that accelerator is a thousand times more powerful than any ever built, every time they test it, they risk ripping open the membrane of spacetime, 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. You have no idea how much I would love to be wrong about this. “
When the Cloverfield crew does manage to fire up the particle accelerator, some huge unforeseen consequences do occur — in the moment, it sends the entire station into another dimension and causes all sorts of weird stuff to happen, like the wall of the ship eating one character’s arm. And then, of course, at the end of the movie, it’s revealed that monsters have spawned on Earth at some point during the Cloverfield station’s adventures.
The prevailing thought among fans of the series at this point, and I agree, is that the firing of the particle accelerator did exactly what Stambler said it would: unleash terrible things upon the world and spark the events of both “Cloverfield” and “10 Cloverfield Lane.” The big question from there, though, is about the particulars. Did either of the first two movies take place on the main Earth from “The Cloverfield Paradox”? It feels like the answer is no — those movies take place on alternate Earths, and not necessarily even the alternate Earth we saw in this movie.
The reason I don’t think “Cloverfield” takes place on the main Earth here is because in “The Cloverfield Paradox” we see characters constantly use crazy future tech — this movie clearly takes place beyond 2018, and there’s nothing in the original “Cloverfield” to make me think it takes place at any time beyond the year it was released, 2008. I mean the found footage conceit of that movie involves the whole thing being filmed using a video camera that records on tape. And while Stambler says that the firing of the accelerator could affect the past, it doesn’t appear to have done so on this Earth because the dialogue at the end of the movie indicates that the monsters only just appeared. They didn’t retroactively show up 10+ years earlier. So it seems as though this Earth simply got its own array of monsters, including that particularly large beastie.
“10 Cloverfield Lane,” meanwhile, has a completely different set of monsters from the first movie. It’s possible that this Earth is where “10 Cloverfield Lane” takes place because the vibe outside the bunker in that film is very similar to the vibe of the world under attack in this movie. But we never see the approximately human-sized enemies from that film here; just large creatures.
So the prevailing thought right now is that each of these three films takes place in their own separate parallel universe, and the firing of the Cloverfield particle accelerator did exactly what Stambler predicted — unleash “monsters, demons and beasts from the sea… in the past, in the future, in other dimensions.” But the particulars of this cinematic universe remain unclear. If you’re looking to dig deeper into this, the best place to go for the moment would be the Cloververse subreddit, where every semi-plausible theory under the sun is being tossed around.