During the Super Bowl, Netflix ran a really enticing ad for The Cloverfield Paradox, the third, er, film in what you might call the “Cloverfield” franchise.
Before I go on to say anything else, I need to warn you here and now: It’s garbage. Now, it’s true that there are one or two moments that have some value. Chris O’Dowd manages a funny scene or two. But you could also find a stray edible slice of pizza in a dumpster. Or if you spelunk around the town dump, you might find a single nostalgia-arousing joystick from an Atari 2600 or a partially stained, mostly faded poster for Smokey and the Bandit Part 3. But let’s be honest, these sorts of things are not such diamonds in the muck that they achieve escape velocity from garbage status.
If you’re worried about spoilers, seek help. Indeed, I shouldn’t even warn you that there are spoilers ahead because I am doing a public service every time I prevent someone from watching this thing. But I am a servant of the forms. So. Spoilers Ahead.
The story takes place in the very near future. The world is on the brink of a global “energy war.” Somehow, Germany is doing well in this energy shortage, but Russia is dying. A bunch of scientists from a Benetton ad are on a space station trying to discover some stable form of inexhaustible energy. They try. It doesn’t work. But they have crossed the beams, as it were, and another mirror dimension has stumbled into ours, and the two dimensions are “fighting” for ontological control of reality. A wall bites off Chris O’Dowd’s arm. But the wound makes it seem like he’d been missing his arm all along! A few minutes later they find the arm crawling up a hallway. They grab the arm, which is fighting them, and put it in a box. The hand at the end of the severed arm starts miming that it’s writing something. “Get it a pen!” They give it a pen. It turns out that the hostile, sentient arm was an ally all along! It writes that they should cut open the Russian scientist who a few scenes earlier had blown up because he was so full of worms. Inside, his torso, they find the device that can save the space station. Eventually, after a bunch of people die or get murdered, the few survivors make it to Earth, where there is a giant monster much bigger than the one in the original Cloverfield movie. The end.
Some other stuff happens, but these are the best parts and the ones that make the most sense.
Anyway, I gather that what happened is this: Paramount was going to release this thing as a theatrical movie. But, knowing that this is the Tide Pod of sci-fi movies, they decided to treat Netflix like Mikey from the old Life cereal commercials. “Make Netflix try it, they’ll try anything.” Or maybe the executives at Netflix had been on a three-day coke binge, and in a sleep-deprived state, they agreed to buy this thing sight unseen. Whatever the truth of the matter, someone at Netflix watched it and realized that, while they thought they had ordered a filet, what they had was a soiled diaper under the brass dome.
So what did they do? They bought an ad for the Super Bowl. And figured the shock value would get an army of suckers to watch it. I am one of those suckers.
The amazing thing is that this may have been a success for Netflix, too. Maybe, but crying wolf — or giant monster — and delivering garbage doesn’t seem like a great long-term strategy to me.