Monsoon-A-Day ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ (2018)

Welcome to Monsoon-a-day.

Where I watch and review a movie a day. Or whenever I fucking feel like it.

Day 92

 

In 2007, J.J. Abrams held a TED conference where he famously talked about the time his grandfather took him to Tannen’s magic shop in New York City where he was immediately captivated by a mysterious box riddled with question marks. It was a box containing magicians tricks such as playing cards, instructional pamphlets and the like but Abrams didn’t buy it for the tricks. He bought it for the mystery.

Over four decades later, Abrams still owns the mystery box and it is still unopened. The mysteries that lie within that box are the driving force behind his entire career. All one has to do is take a quick gander at his Wikipedia page to see that every project he produces has, in some way, a degree of mystery behind it.

Lost, Alias, Fringe, Alcatraz, Castle Rock, Etc. Almost everything the man puts his name on has either a plot dealing with a mystery or a mysterious marketing campaign. Hell, even Felicity had a major mystery at its center which was “What on earth happened to that poor woman’s hair?”

I watched every episode of that show and even half of Lost waiting for answers and true to form, I never got them.

Never forget

Besides the obvious Felicity alien clone conspiracy, the best example of Abrams’s dedication to mystery is the viral marketing behind Cloverfield. For those of you too young to remember, attached to the film Transformers was a quick teaser to a then unnamed film. The teaser contained a man running onto the streets of New York with a hand-held camera filming hysterical people yelling “It’s alive” and ending with the decapitated head of lady liberty crash landing right next to where he was standing.

I can’t tell you a single thing that happened in that first Transformers film but I remember every frame of that teaser. That’s all anyone I knew wanted to talk about. Was it a new Godzilla film? Did it tie into Lost? Was it Voltron? My guess was Cthulhu and we would all eventually be proven wrong.

A couple of months later, a second trailer debuted with more footage and a new title: Cloverfield. The film could never live up to its marketing (and some would argue it didn’t) but it didn’t matter. For at least four months, the film brought me and my friends and countless others an invaluable gift. The gift of mystery.

Cut to almost a decade later and Abrams pulled the exact same trick again. Attached to the film 13 Hours was a then unheard of mystery drama that centered around a woman stuck in bomb shelter with an insane John Goodman that surprised everyone when the title popped up and it was revealed to be a sequel to Cloverfield.

The Cloverfield cinematic universe was officially born.

Which was exciting for fans but killed any potential surprises down the line. Any sequel would be announced months beforehand, so audiences could no longer be tricked. But like the magicians he idols, Abrams always has another card under his sleeve.

He knew that everyone would know that God Particle was a Cloverfield sequel long before any teaser could drop, so he came up with the next best trick: change the release date. The day the teaser was released it was revealed that not only had the film changed its title to The Cloverfield Paradox but that it was already available to watch on Netflix.

It was a bold strategy that got people talking. He bypassed the mystery and went straight into anticipation. Unlike the previous films, eagerness replaced mystery and the internet was once again abuzz with excitement.

The marketing for this franchise is the perfect representation of Abram’s mystery box but unfortunately, The Cloverfield Paradox is the sad reality of its contents. To a young Abrams, that box represented wonder. It theoretically could contain anything and that mystery excites him but the harsh truth is that his forty year old box is filled with nothing but dollar store trash.

Strip away the mystery of the box and you’re left with forgettable garbage that wouldn’t entertain anyone for more than a day. And that is the perfect analogy for The Cloverfield Paradox. A big ol’ box of rubbish that is technically amazing until you gaze upon its contents.

When preparing to make Hot Fuzz, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg decided to include as many cliches from Roger Ebert’s Little Book of Hollywood Cliches as they possibly could. They thought it would be humorous to front load the film with cliches in order to subvert those same cliches and tropes in the 3rd act. It’s a brilliant screenplay.

The writers of The Cloverfield Paradox had a similar idea but instead of cherry picking cliches from Roger Ebert’s book, they decided to upload the entire goddamn thing into a predictive text keyboard and used that to write their screenplay.

The only contributions the writers added to Ebert’s novel are dialogue and dutch angles. And the dialogue is nothing but exposition. Say what you will about Michael Bay but the majority of his films could be followed with the sound off. His films may be dumb explosion porn but you can follow the plot based on visuals alone. Which is more than you can say about The Cloverfield Paradox.

Even with every single character in the film verbally communicating out loud what they are doing as they are doing it, the film still manages to make no fucking sense. Characters do things. Things happen. But you’ll never understand how the film got from point A to point B.

The plot, as far as I can tell, involves a group of scientists in an orbiting particle accelerator trying to provide the world unlimited energy. The future is running thin on resources and if Mad Max taught us anything, it’s that without water and gasoline, everything turns to shit. After two years of failure, they finally get it to work but plot twist: it didn’t work. Everything goes catastrophically bad immediately and now the scientists need to get the fuck home on the double or bad things will start happening. For unclear plot reasons.

It’s like the worst version of “and then” any improve group has ever given. There’s a series of events that involve a severed arm, a man filled with worms and an autopsy that was so preposterous, so comically inept, that my annoyance faded away and I was suddenly giddy with excitement. The film is so terrible, I was eagerly anticipating how bad it was going to get and it did not disappoint.

I’m actually disappointed that this film skipped the theatres because now I’m robbed the experience of witnessing the audience reactions. Some would be confused, others would be pissed but I guarantee most would have a good time.

Because most people are stupid and they enjoy stupid things. And there’s nothing wrong with that. This film is stupid and if you’re in the right mind set or environment (drunk with friends), you might have a blast with it.

Speaking of mysteries, can somebody explain how the fuck Ziyi Zhang looks the exact same as she did in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? That’s a bigger enigma than whatever happened to Felicity’s hair and that’s plagued me for almost twenty years now.