We make sense of The Cloverfield Paradox's ending and explore how it connects all of the films in the Cloververse.
The Cloverfield Paradox, the third Cloverfield movie, hit Earth like a blast from the Shepard particle accelerator on Sunday night after the Super Bowl. Unlike its predecessors, this latest installment received zero marketing before it dropped on Netflix, besides a trailer during the big game. Hey, if you’re going to drop a highly anticipated movie out of nowhere, do it with style, right?
Unfortunately, this third outing has failed to deliver on its buzz. Reviews have been generally negative for newcomer Julius Onah’s second feature film. Our own review certainly wasn’t kind to this sequel, which is a much more conventional continuation of the Cloverfield story than most expected. Indeed, unlike 10 Cloverfield Lane before it, The Cloverfield Paradox goes out of its way to explain what’s come before in the series.
When Does The Cloverfield Paradox Take Place?
As it turns out, the film is actually a prequel to the original, as revealed by the final scene in the movie. Ava Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Schmidt (Daniel Bruhl), the last survivors of Cloverfield Station, plunge into the Earth in an escape pod as a giant monster roars above the clouds. (Interestingly enough, while this monster shares a likeness with Clover, the creature that destroyed Manhattan in the first film, this beast is MUCH bigger. Some fans are already theorizing that this is indeed Clover, but mutated by the radiation of the nuclear attack meant to destroy it.) Meanwhile, Michael (Roger Davies), Ava’s husband, is on the phone begging mission control to warn his wife about Earth’s new monster problem. It’s too late, of course. When the pod hits the water, Ava and Schmidt will likely be greeted by a hungry sea creature.
So how did things go from bad to worse on Earth in The Cloverfield Paradox? Pretty much everything you need to know to understand the ending and the movie’s place in the timeline is delivered in an info dump early on in the film.
Why Is Clover in This Movie?
Right before the crew takes its ill-fated trip to an alternate dimension, we tune into a TV interview between a reporter named Leslie (Suzanne Cryer) and the conspiracy theorist Mark Stambler (Donal Logue). Both of these names should ring a bell. Mark is the brother of Howard Stambler, the villain played by John Goodman in 10 Cloverfield Lane; Leslie is the dying woman begging to bet let into the fallout shelter in the same movie. Anyway, it’s clear that paranoia and an obsession with conspiracies run in the Stambler family.
The jury is still out on whether Howard really knew that there were aliens waiting outside of the bunker, but Mark is certainly right about his own theory, which he’s dubbed “The Cloverfield Paradox.” He’s even written a book about it, which annoys the hell out of Cloverfield Station’s captain, Kiel (David Oyelowo), who orders the station’s doctor, Monk Acosta (John Ortiz), to shut off the interview.
I won’t even bother pretending to understand the science in this movie (I’m not even sure the movie understands the science in this movie), so I’ll explain Mark’s theory in the simplest terms: basically, a successful activation of the Shepard particle accelerator, which is meant to provide a desperate Earth with unlimited energy as its remaining resources continue to dwindle, could have huge ramifications for the planet. Mark fears that the energy created by the particle accelerator could in fact open portals to other dimensions containing horrors unimaginable. “Demons,” Mark warns Leslie and those watching on the space station.
Of course, that’s exactly what happens. On top of transporting the station to an alternate dimension where Cloverfield Station has been destroyed and the Earth is now at war for the planet’s remaining resources, the particle accelerator also allows Clover and other monsters to invade the original Earth (let’s take a page from DC Comics and call it “Earth Prime”). I’m guessing that the aliens from 10 Cloverfield Lane also come from one of these alternate dimensions. It turns out that Cloverfied Station’s particle accelerator test is basically the source of everything that happens in the first two movies. This also explains why the tapes that make up the first movie are codenamed “Cloverfield.”
It’s a reasonable assumption that Ava and Schmidt crash land on Earth Prime at some point in time between the incident in Manhattan and the alien invasion in 10 Cloverfield Lane – unless these two events are one and the same and Clover is actually part of the advance invasion force. We never see Ava and Schmidt actually land, so I can’t say for sure what became of them. Perhaps they’ll have a cameo in Cloverfield 4?
There’s a whole theory that the satellite easter egg from the first movie – that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in the last scene where something crashes into the ocean just beyond Coney Island – is actually Ava’s escape pod landing in the water, which brings up a whole other mess of timey wimey stuff I really don’t want to get in there. Just know that MAYBE The Cloverfield Paradox retconned that little easter egg.
Speaking of timey wimey, things are about to get weird…
What Happens to the Other Earth?
As for the other Earth, it seems like the planet is pretty screwed without its own Cloverfield Station, part of which somehow fused with Earth Prime’s Cloverfield Station after the particle accelerator went haywire. This tear in the fabric of reality is why Jensen (Elizabeth Debicki) suddenly finds herself fused to the power lines inside Earth Prime Cloverfield Station’s walls. Again, not going to try to explain the vague science in this movie, but Earth Prime’s Cloverfield Station somehow replaced the other Earth’s station in space time, sending what was left of it crashing down to the planet. Or something like that. Jensen, who was a crew member on the other station, ends up trapped on Earth Prime’s station.
Speaking of the weird things that happen after the particle accelerator malfunctions, don’t bother asking me about Mundy’s (Chris O’Dowd) sentient severed arm because I have no idea what is going on there and the movie never bothers to tell us. The worms and gyro inside of Volkov’s (Aksel Hennie) stomach don’t really make much sense, either. I’m guessing that all has to do with things just fusing together during the jump from one dimension to the next. The same way that Jensen became part of the power lines, the gyro and worms somehow ended up inside of Volkov. Still, I don’t know why the hell he starts hearing voices that compel him to pull a gun on the rest of the crew. Just go with it, I guess.
Anyway, there might be hope for alt-Earth. Right before Ava activates the Shepard particle accelerator once again in order to travel back to Earth Prime (and how the hell does the Shepard know to travel back to Ava’s Earth??), she leaves a recording for alt-Ava, who is alive and presumably well on this other Earth. You see, alt-Ava never went on her own Cloverfield Station mission, choosing instead to stay on the planet with Michael and their children, who died on Earth Prime but are doing a-okay on alt-Earth.
Before exiting this alternate dimension, Ava sends her other self the plans for a working Shepard particle accelerator that will save the planet (oh yeah, the crew ends up figuring out how to make the damn thing work before the end) as well as a warning to not install the device that will siphon off power for her family. It was this device that caused a fire that killed Ava’s children on Earth Prime. Warning alt-Ava will hopefully save her children on the other Earth.
So Ava sort of leaves the alternate dimension on a happy note, doing what she can to save it. Hopefully, Jensen, who dies trying to take over the station to save her Earth, is smiling down at her in approval.
So the Shepard Particle Accelerator Works. Now What?
Presumably not much? At least for now.
Ava and Schmidt never receive mission control’s warnings about what’s going on back on Earth and head home on the escape pod, leaving a heavily damaged Cloverfield Station orbiting around the planet. Ava calls in a repair team to work on the station before heading down to Earth, but I assume it’ll be a long time before anyone can launch another rocket into space. After all, the planet’s being attacked by giant kaiju with dumb names like “Clover.”
My grim interpretation is that Earth has finally figured out how to solve its energy problem, but now can’t actually reach the station to do so. There’s also the question of the aliens. Might they have found the station and destroyed it? Go ahead and obsess about that on your own because I’m moving on.
Things Left Unanswered
There are a few things left unanswered by the end of The Cloverfield Paradox, most of which are not really vital to the core plot but are bothering me just the same. I’ve already addressed the weird body horror stuff that happens on the actual station, but there are two things back on Earth that remain unexplained.
First of all, I should say that I’ve chosen to interpret this Earth as the same one from Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane, meaning that all of the things we’ve seen in the series so far are happening in one place. That might not be the case, as there doesn’t seem to be any rules in this franchise (a problem created by The Cloverfield Paradox‘s attempts to explain everything in the first two movies), but I don’t have all night. I just want to let you know that there are some excellent theories out there and you should search them out if you’re so inclined.
Okay, the two things left unanswered:
1) If Earth is on the verge of collapse due to dwindling resources and The Cloverfield Paradox is indeed a prequel, why are all those douchey bros partying it up in Manhattan in Cloverfield? Shouldn’t they be conserving energy?
While I assume that the power outages are going on all over the world, it seems that only European countries are mentioned as being affected by the lack of energy. Russia and Germany are threatening to go to war because of it at one point – which seems pretty counterproductive, but I’m no world leader.
This seems to me to be a simple retcon that we just have to accept. Before shit hits the fan in Cloverfield, main character Rob is planning to move out to Japan for work and isn’t worried at all that he might not be able to charge his camcorder out East due to the depleted resources. So I don’t know.
Here’s some headcanon (and again, I’m ignoring the fact these two movies might not take place on the same Earth): the U.S. has managed to stockpile more energy than any other country and Americans are able to go about their days as they always have while the rest of the world burns. The appearance of Clover in Manhattan is the universe balancing the scale on Earth.
2) What happened to Michael and Molly, the little girl he found in the remains of the hospital? I’m not actually too worried about it. We’ll almost certainly never see these characters again and it really seems like their scenes were tacked onto the movie to make the Cloverfield connection a bit more clear, anyway.
Still, it might’ve been nice to learn just who the hell Molly was and what the deal is with her parents. Also, who is Michael’s friend who just HAPPENS to have his/her own fallout shelter in the city? Why isn’t this friend locked inside the bunker, too?
We’ll probably never learn the answers to these questions and I’m at peace with that. If The Cloverfield Paradox taught us anything, it’s that some explanations are unnecessary. Hopefully, Cloverfield 4 will take that lesson to heart.