How ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ Explains the Entire Series

Back in 2016, J.J. Abrams said that Bad Robot was turning the Cloverfield franchise into an anthology series with 10 Cloverfield Lane. But then advertising for the surprise third installment, The Cloverfield Paradox, promised to explain why the monster arrived on Earth in the original Cloverfield, implying it actually took place within the same continuity and wasn’t a separate story.

The movie itself only left fans more confused about how this whole thing is supposed to fit together. But although the answer is a bit complicated, Paradox does seem to offer an explanation for the entire franchise so far.

Warning: Major spoilers for all three Cloverfield movies lie ahead.

The particle accelerator in Paradox releases monsters on Earth

The particle accelerator in The Cloverfield Paradox

The particle accelerator in The Cloverfield Paradox. | Bad Robot Productions

In The Cloverfield Paradox, scientists test a particle accelerator in hopes of finding a solution to the world’s energy crisis.

But, as we learn, this experiment has a downside. Early on, a guy named Mark Stambler suggests in an interview that this experiment could rip a hole in space-time. It could, as he says, “unleash chaos the likes of which we’ve never seen. Monsters, demons, beasts from the sea.”

Clearly, this is what happens. After the crew of the Shepard fires the accelerator, they travel to another dimension. Meanwhile, on Earth, monsters appear as a result of their actions. Presumably, a dimension in which monsters exist has merged with our own and left them to wreck cities and kill millions.

Next: The connection to the movies isn’t so simple, though.

But the monster in Paradox isn’t the same one from Cloverfield

The Cloverfield monster returns

The Cloverfield monster returns. | Bad Robot Productions

The very end of The Cloverfield Paradox gives diehard fans what they’ve been hoping to see again for the past 10 years. “Clover,” the monster from the first movie, returns.

But wait a second. This can’t possibly be the same monster from the original Cloverfield. After all, that monster was smaller than a New York City skyscraper. On the other hand, the monster from the end of Paradox is so tall that it’s actually piercing the clouds.

So what initially strikes us as a clever ending that ties the film back into the original actually doesn’t really do that at all. It only creates more confusion.

Next: Paradox definitely is not a direct prequel.

Paradox can’t possibly be a direct prequel to Cloverfield or 10 Cloverfield Lane

Monsters roam the Earth in The Cloverfield Paradox

Monsters roam the Earth in The Cloverfield Paradox. | Bad Robot Productions

This is not the only reason that Paradox can’t be a direct prequel that’s set in the same timeline. In addition to the monster being totally different, the whole movie takes place in the future and in a world nothing like our own. According to the alternate reality game, the setting is 2028.

In Cloverfield, the world is exactly the same as ours in every way except for the monster appearing; it’s very clearly not the world we see in Paradox. Also, that movie is set in 2008. It doesn’t make sense that Paradox would take place in the same timeline as Cloverfield but 20 years later, since nobody makes mention of the fact that a monster attacked New York two decades ago. Also, if that’s supposed to be a grown-up version of the same monster from Cloverfield at the end, that would mean it’s been on Earth for the past 20 years and yet everyone was living their lives normally at the beginning of Paradox.

Paradox doesn’t make sense as a direct prequel to 10 Cloverfield Lane, either, since the monsters in that film look completely different. Also, that story seems to be set in 2016. At the same time, there are small Easter Eggs that pop up in all three films, like references to Slusho, implying there’s some connection.

So how can all three movies possibly exist within the same continuity?

Next: There’s only one way to explain all of this.

All of the movies take place in different dimensions

Mark Stambler in The Cloverfield Paradox

Mark Stambler in The Cloverfield Paradox. | Bad Robot Productions

There’s one simple explanation for all of these disparities: Each Cloverfield movie takes place in a different dimension.

The idea is that when the Shepard fires up their particle accelerator, they unleash monsters not just on their Earth, but on every conceivable version of Earth. After all, listen back to that scene with Mark Stambler. He says, “Every time they test it, they risk ripping open the membrane of space-time, smashing together multiple dimensions, shattering reality. And not just on that station. Everywhere.”

So that’s what happened: The accelerator smashed together multiple dimensions, leaving monsters behind. And so far, every Cloverfield film has shown us a different one of those dimensions.

Next: How the original Cloverfield relates to this new one

Cloverfield is set 20 years earlier in a different dimension

Cloverfield - J.J. Abrams

The original Cloverfield monster | Paramount Pictures

Even if we accept the idea that the movies are taking place in different dimensions, what’s the explanation for them not lining up time- wise? Well, once again, Mark Stambler’s TV interview provides the answer. He says that the particle accelerator can release demons “not just here and now, but in the past, in the future, in other dimensions.”

So when the particle accelerator ripped through time, it caused a monster to appear decades earlier in the original Cloverfield. The alternate reality game for the first film established that the monster was already in the sea and was awoken by an oil drilling company, though. So either the events of Paradox caused the monster to appear in the ocean long before it was woken up, or the alternate reality game is no longer canon.

Additionally, we can presume that the monster in Cloverfield is a baby monster of the same species as the one from Paradox. It just so happens that two monsters of the same species — but not the same size — appeared both in the Earth from Cloverfield and the Earth from Paradox. They probably come from the same dimension, but they’re otherwise unrelated.

Next: We can see evidence of the particle accelerator’s actions in both movies.

The particle accelerator seems to cause rips in time in both movies

A scene from 10 Cloverfield Lane

Michelle and Howard in 10 Cloverfield Lane | Paramount Pictures

There are events in both Cloverfield movies that we can now theorize were caused by the particle accelerator.

For example, exactly 18 minutes into the first Cloverfield, there’s a massive earthquake which causes all the electricity in New York City to go down. It just so happens that 18 minutes into The Cloverfield Paradox is when the particle accelerator overloads and creates the power surge.

Also, in 10 Cloverfield Lane, Emmett speaks of seeing a bright red flash, which definitely calls to mind the flash of the particle accelerator.

Next: What the Cloverfield movies will be like going forward.

This will allow any future film to easily tie in the broader universe

J.J. Abrams in 2013

J.J. Abrams | Keith Tsuji/Getty Images

Abrams has compared Cloverfield to an amusement park, where each ride offers something different, but all fit a certain theme. He has also compared it to anthology shows like The Twilight Zone.

Now, Cloverfield has set itself up so that the previous movies, and all future movies, can technically exist within the same world. But the idea from now on would be that every single story takes place in an alternate dimension, and whatever supernatural forces the characters encounter is a result of the particle accelerator’s actions.

It’s clearly not just the “Clover” monsters that crossed dimensions, but other monsters, too. After all, the monsters in 10 Cloverfield Lane are not the same as the others; these are closer to alien invaders, and they even float above the Earth in spaceships.

The fourth Cloverfield film, which is currently titled Overlord, is going to be a lot different; it takes place during World War II and is reportedly about zombies. So future Cloverfield movies don’t even have to involve giant monsters or aliens. J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot can basically tell any story they want and fit it under the Cloverfield umbrella by saying it’s yet another dimension, and whatever madness is going on, it’s a result of the accelerator unleashing it.

Let’s just hope that future installments are not quite as rushed and filled with as many obvious reshoots as The Cloverfield Paradox.

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