Minor spoilers for The Cloverfield Paradox below!
You really have to hand it to Cloverfield — with each new film that joins the J.J. Abrams-produced sci-fi series, we're always completely and totally surprised.
The first entry into the series, 2008's Cloverfield, is your standard found-footage monster movie, while its sequel, 2016's 10 Cloverfield Lane, is a tense isolation thriller that only connects to its predecessor in the final moments. The Cloverfield Paradox, which is now streaming on Netflix and was announced during the Super Bowl only hours before its release, is also a part of this universe; rather than taking the story another step forward, however, the Julius Onah-directed addition to the franchise rewinds the clock and throws us yet another tonal curve ball.
Rather than a low-tech found-footage affair or a claustrophobic cat-and-mouse game, this is a full-on deep space thriller akin to Alien or the recent Life. Most of the magnetic cast — which includes Daniel Brühl, Elizabeth Debicki, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O'Dowd, David Oyelowo, and more — play a team of scientists aboard an international space station. With a devastating energy crisis threatening to throw the Earth into chaos, the team is attempting to experiment with a particle accelerator up in space in order to find a new source of renewable energy and save the planet. The story shifts between Mbatha-Raw's Ava Hamilton, a communications specialist on the ship, and her husband, Michael (Roger Davies), a doctor who stayed behind.
After a few years up in space and countless failed experiments under their belts, the team finally has a breakthrough, but it comes at a grave cost. The particle accelerator overloads and smashes their dimension into another, creating a whole bunch of problems. Not only does some truly bizarre sh*t start happening on the ship — someone's arm disappears, a mysterious woman is found impaled within the walls — but it's not much better back home on Earth. It turns out that the astronauts who were sent into space to solve the planet's energy problem are the ones who inadvertently unleash the monsters that we see in Cloverfield (we get to briefly relive their terror through Michael). When the accelerator malfunctions, it essentially tears open the fabric of our reality, and some deadly, city-smashing creatures come crawling through.
So, without spoiling things any further, The Cloverfield Paradox is the start of it all. The previous two films are merely terrifying glimpses into the deeply unfortunate side effect of their well-meaning experiment. If you still haven't watched the movie for yourself, be warned: the last few seconds will punch you right in the gut.