Rottenfield

WARNING: Major spoilers for THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX ahead…

I saw a “bad” movie and really enjoyed it…

Yesterday, Netflix surprise-released The Cloverfield Paradox. The third film in the J. J. Abrams Twilight Zone-esque series of weirdo sci-fi tales, it was – for the longest time – aiming for a theatrical release last year. Delays kept happening, reports of reshoots came into play, then there were talks of Paramount selling the smaller-scale space film (which began life as an unrelated microbudget sci-fi film called God Particle) to Netflix. Then on Super Bowl Sunday, after weeks of rumblings, the trailer showed up out of nowhere… And then a few minutes later, we learned that the film was going to be available right after the game!

Wow. The trailer and the movie on the same day???

I wasn’t able to catch it right after the game. I had to go to bed actually, because I’m lame like that. Yes, I have super-early classes this semester, so I got home from my party by midnight and couldn’t squeeze in a viewing of Cloverfield numero tre. I did a near-complete social media blackout all day in order to avoid spoilers, and then caught it earlier tonight.

I also avoided… Reviews.

The first time I’ve ever done so since the days when I only used the Internet for silly flash games and Disney fun facts sites. When I was about 10-12…

Let me tell you… To go into that movie, expecting little, and making your own decisions while watching… It felt liberating in a way. I was untainted by some tomato splotch and a number, or discussions on message boards. I was untainted by what others thought of the thing. I went in not knowing what anyone thought, and that was part of the fun. Like seeing a movie when you were young and didn’t have much internet access. I come from the dial-up days, and at age 8, when using my mum’s boxy computer and Juno Internet service, I wasn’t going to places like Rotten Tomatoes or IMDb message boards. When I saw movies, I just saw movies and thought about them.

Now of course, it’s good to hear other perspectives. I have nothing but respect for the majority of critics out there. Some bad apples here and there, yes, but that comes from all fields. Hearing other perspectives helped me appreciate things in film and art that I had never appreciated before, and I will always be thankful for that… But ultimately, there has to be a limit. Your voice ultimately matters, too.

The Cloverfield Paradox apparently has a 19% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 37 on Metacritic. That’s pretty bad! Some reviewers said that they want the Cloverfield franchise as a whole to end because of it! Wow, that horrible? Apparently it’s a terrible mix of sci-fi cliches that wastes its great cast.

I enjoyed it a lot.

Was it a good movie? Not really. First-time director Julius Onah’s sci-fi thriller had plenty of issues here and there, and it felt jumbled up in places. However, I quite liked the characters and I especially liked what they did with Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character Ava. She’s coping with the death of her children in a futuristic Earth setting where energy is going down the tubes, and the intergalactic adventure lands her in an alternate universe where her, her husband, and her kids are all alive. I really liked how she was torn at one point, debating on whether to just stay in that alternate universe (where Earth is torn apart by war) or go back to hers. I also liked the conflict within the group and how things went completely awry by the end. Was it all lifted from better sci-fi films? Yeah. But I thought it was all served up in a way that made it fun.

The twists added a lot to it, and I thought it was a nice-looking movie in many scenes, surprisingly colorful even! The Earth stuff, detailing what appears to be the attack of the kaiju from the first Cloverfield , was also cool! Yet that was all set in 2028, the events of Cloverfield occurred in May 2009. What the heck did we just see there? J. J. you clever, clever guy.

There was certainly some false advertising in that trailer. The Cloverfield Paradox doesn’t tell you how the monster attack in New York City happened, and it barely has anything to do with 10 Cloverfield Lane. The monster from the first movie is in it, but again, the first movie took place in 2009. This, according to the alternate reality game, takes place in 2028. I get those frustrations.

The film is indeed a big step down from its inventive predecessors. Cloverfield did something new and different with the found footage movie, a little while before studios ran the format into the ground after the runaway success of Paranormal Activity. 10 Cloverfield Lane was an old-fashioned, suspenseful thriller with only three characters and one claustrophobic location. While initially fixated on what was going on outside, the film slowly became about the monster on the inside, which I think was ultimately the payoff, not the alien fight at the end. Lots of others thought differently, but… I really never got behind the criticisms of 10 Cloverfield Lane‘s final 10 minutes.

The Cloverfield Paradox on the other hand is a bit of a jumble, and why is the monster from the first film in this universe’s 2028 setting? In a way, that stuff does feel tacked on, more so than 10 Cloverfield Lane‘s alien invaders. See, 10 Cloverfield Lane lead a lot of us to believe that the Cloverfield series wasn’t going to be like other “cinematic universes” in this post-Marvel age of blockbusters we’re living in. 10 Cloverfield Lane clearly takes place in another timeline altogether, as it’s set around the time it came out (early 2016, note Michelle’s more current iPhone vs. the flip-phones in Cloverfield) and the aliens do not resemble the destructive infant monster that laid waste to Manhattan. J. J. Abrams himself called the film a “blood relative,” which is an apt description. I saw it as episode two of this cinematic Twilight Zone, a weirdo sci-fi tale that has nothing to do with the last, but it’s brought to you by the same brand, with easter eggs abound!

The Cloverfield Paradox tries a little too hard to tie everything to the first film specifically, with like one or two small references to 10 Cloverfield Lane. Unless something else is at play that’ll explain everything and enhance this film’s storyline, why couldn’t the scenes set on Earth just take place during the 2009 NYC attack? Is this the cinematic equivalent of The Twilight Zone? Or not?

Exposition-heavy stretches tend to bog the film down, too, along with some awkwardly-edited and composed bits. During some parts, I found myself losing interest, which was NOT the case with the previous two films.

But was it godawful? Nowhere near. Mediocre? Nah, I thought it had some nice flourishes and it kept me hooked for the most part. The beginning of it is particularly strong, and the climax dials the thrills up.

I had so much fun watching it though, and when it was ever I was like “Wow!” I thought it was pretty decent.

Then I checked the Rotten scores and other reactions and thought… Oh boy!

But it was just so refreshing to simply watch a movie without being told it’s great or bad or this or that. Like people seemingly used to do! That is not an excuse for the movie’s shortcomings, but I’m glad I made up my own mind without seeing reviews. While watching the movie, I didn’t say to myself “gee, I’m liking this hated movie, what’ll I do??” I don’t care. I found it to be a decent film and a worthy addition to the series, and I’m ready for more. (Is the upcoming fourth entry, tentatively titled Overlord, still a theatrical release or not?)

If you disliked it, hated it even, that’s fine. I’m just not necessarily a fan of hyperbolic reviews, despite my respect for critics and film criticism in general. I feel a lot of the reviews I’m seeing are exaggerating about its quality, I think I’ve seen worse movies than this. Critics are indeed people with valid opinions, but I think people get confused. A critic’s opinion is not more important than yours, nor is it any lesser. Just because a movie got a 20-something on Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t mean it’s factually bad, someone might find gold in that perceived trash pile. The same applies to films that are said to be excellent. Off the top of my head, I didn’t love American Hustle, a multi-Oscar film with a whopping 90-something percent on some site named after decaying red fruits. Great cast and aesthetics and all, but the narrative lost me. Wasn’t anything special to my tiny brain… But if I didn’t have “good taste,” then I wouldn’t have liked, let alone loved things like… Let’s see! The Shape of Water, Dunkirk, Logan Lucky, Coco, etc. Get out of here with that.

I think Rotten Tomatoes inadvertently worsened what used to pockets of Internet message boards. It’s become almost dogmatic in a way, these are the films you HAVE to like, these are the films you CAN’T like. Then sometimes, RT doesn’t matter whatsoever. I’ve been told in the last few months why I couldn’t adore Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a film with a 90-something on Rotten Tomatoes. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was also in the 90s on Rotten, and I really liked it, didn’t love it to pieces like I did The Last Jedi. But no, I can’t love The Last Jedi for whatever reason. All my praise for it is wrong and such. Whatever.

Thankfully, The Cloverfield Paradox hasn’t attracted the opposite of this, a vigilant group of fans who say you have to like this 19%-rated movie OR ELSE. I don’t want my Cloverfield tainted by the worst excesses of the DCEU “fandom.” I just want to like it and that’s that. I want other people to have their views on it, but not tell me what to do. As if there’s some golden rule in cinema or whatever.

In fact… I remember when I wasn’t supposed to love Cloverfield, and I actually kind of gave into that. Cloverfield came out in January of 2008, 1-18-08 to be exact. Back then, 15-year-old me was reading IMDb threads. Very few positive posts about that movie were on those boards, nearly everyone I knew at school despised it, I may have known maybe only 2-3 people who did dig it. I continued to like the movie, but I never called it a “great” movie. I do now, and I stand by that opinion, what with years of watching, analyzing, and experience. I stopped doing what others told me to do, and said “Cloverfield is a great movie!” I also did the same with TRON: Legacy, which got mixed-to-negative reviews at best.

With that, I’ll continue to love the first Cloverfield and I’ll continue to not mind 10 Cloverfield Lane‘s final 10 minutes. The Cloverfield Paradox was flawed but fun, and if you liked it, that’s cool! Your taste is not invalid, and it should not be determined by a fruit that you don’t eat!

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