So, I was actually optimistic when I saw the ad during the Super Bowl that Netflix had come out with another Cloverfield sequel. I personally regard the original Cloverfield as the best kaiju movie ever made, and although it was at best tenuously related, liked 10 Cloverfield Lane as well, because it was creepy as hell and John Goodman was the lead, so what’s not to like? The best part was that it left us with the extremely haunting question: what if being trapped by a paranoid survivalist homicidal rapist was only the second-worst thing that could happen to you?
Having been pleasantly surprised by the first two movies, I was hoping to be once again pleasantly surprised. Then I started watching. Five minutes in I wondered how they were going to save it. Five minutes after that, I came to the conclusion they weren’t going to. Five minutes after that, I knew I had to write about this. SO, this is my first ever fisking of a movie as I watch it. If I had the skills and time, I’d do a MST3K send-up, but I can’t, so here goes: a stream-of-consciousness series of my impressions of various “plot” points of the movie.
Premise: “The Earth will run out of “energy” in 5 years.”
Really? The water will all dry up? The wind will stop blowing? The sun will go out? ALL our energy will be gone? What’s that even mean? I suspect they mean oil, which would be bad, because we use that for so much more than energy. But seriously, the world will go back to dirty nuclear fission wholesale before we “run out of” some all-embracing “energy.”
Problem: “The only hope is the Shepard Particle Accelerator, which will solve All The Energy Problems Forevers if it works. But it doesn’t, and the Earth is fighting twenty minor oil wars, and are on the brink of WWIII over power sources.”
Dude, particle accelerators take power to run. They don’t ever give it back. They use up power and they give you data. But we’re doing this experiment up here in space because it’s dangerous. How do we know it’s dangerous?
Foreshadowing: “I’m an author who sounds exactly like L. Ron Hubbard if his cause had been ecologism instead of making up religions and I’m telling you that the Shepard will rip the Space Membrane, fuse dimensions and summon demons.”
Oh, no, they’ll rip the SPACE MEMBRANE!! And summon demons. And it will be horrifying. So… MORE than WWIII over energy between the world’s superpowers? Because, I think I’d honestly take my chances with the demons.
So, of course, we all know that this is exactly what will happen, because book-huckster paranoiac tells us so. That’s as creepy as if old L. Ron really were the Second Coming.
Communications Officer Hamilton (Main Character): “I am so depressed that this isn’t working and miss my husband and child that I am watching videos of that I shall lean against the side of my rotating habitat ring.”
Oh, well that’s… wait. You’re leaning against the side of a rotating deck? That would make it the floor! And, holy shit what is with this station? It’s three habitat rings, all of which spin, and which, themselves, are spinning about a central axis. So, your gravity is going to be varying wildly, all the time.
However, the real problem is, that this is the setup and we’re 30 minutes into the film, and all we’ve had is a montage of failed Shepard Accelerator tests, with all the characters looking more and more emo about it.
“We have a stable beam! It’s working! It’s working! It’s–”
(glass shatters, things creak ominously, lights go down and come back up)
Crisis: Earth is indeed gone. And just to make sure that is in fact the case, Hamilton, our comm-officer hero decides to call her husband on her cell phone just in case, you know, that works when everything else does not.
At this point, I’m actually glad I’ve got the captions on, because as a bunch of crew are wandering about the station, there is:
Well, if you say so. Sounds like the soundtrack was playing creepy riffs to me.
Dude, shrieking never started. The protagonists are literally hearing the soundtrack.
Plot Twist: They rip a panel off the wall and discover a Pale Mystery Woman impaled by a bunch of wires and things. They cut her loose and stabilize her.
In the middle of all this:
Random POV Shift!! We’re now back on Earth with The Husband. Who is a doctor or nurse or EMT or something. Scary Undefined Noises are Happening. That’s it.
Back up in Space
A Startling Discovery Is Made: The gyroscope for the station, which is inexplicably both a) detachable and b) handheld is missing. As are a bunch of worms, which were on the station for no definable reason. This prompts the following line:
“Without the gyro we’re lost.”
WITH the gyro you were lost. The planet you were in low orbit about just vanished.
Bonus point from me, however, for the following exchange:
“We’re not in Kentucky anymore.”
“Who gives a shit?”
“People from Kansas.”
General Creepiness: Now we are treated to what are supposed to be establishing shots of foosball players (of course they have foosball in space!) suggesting they are impaled victims, and which then start spinning as if possessed. Also, the Russian crewman is feeling inexplicable pains, and we see a long, eerie shot on a Russian matryoshka nesting doll: symbolism!!
The Plot Thickens: Now creepy possibly-possessed Russian dude has printed himself a gun. All in one piece. Including the magazine. And I guess the bullets, too. That’s amazing: he’s printing propellant AS WELL. But hey, they were 3D printing bagels earlier, maybe we just assume he can print molecules of whatever.
So, the Chinese and German Particle Accelerator specialists are hooked up. She speaks only Chinese. And she calls her boyfriend Schmidt?
Crisis: The Russian dude snaps. Holds gun on the German because he doesn’t like Germans. Then collapses due to Eerie Pain Syndrome.
American Commander’s reaction: “There’s a GUN?! How is there a GUN?!”
It was that easy to print one and you didn’t KNOW? The universe is falling apart around you, but oh, noes, a GUN! What will we DO!
Crisis: Aaaaaand 38 minutes in and they’ve resorted to recreating the chestburster sequence from Alien with the missing worms spraying from Russian dude’s mouth. That is officially the sign that you have created this film without a single original thought in your head. The only way this could be worse is if someone draws a lightsaber.
Plot Twist: Oh, Gods, Schmidt left a message in German saying he’s been sabotaging the whole mission. Said message is unlocked by the commander’s override in about 5 seconds. And then Schmidt claims he’s innocent.
Of course, given the dimension-bending that is happening, I’m sure he’s telling the truth. Which only means that there’s some dimension in which a professional agent is dumb enough to leave messages to his HQ on a server that the mission commander can spy on. I can only presume the same dimension produced the writer of this script.
Plot Twist/Crisis: The wall swallows crew member Mundy’s arm. They pull him out, but his arm is gone. Mysteriously, he feels no pain.
“It’s like he was born this way,” says the doctor, after examining him, as we can all clearly see the cut bone and muscle at the severed end, like an anatomical diagram.
Um, I’m married to a congenital amputee. I can assure you that if I can ever see her severed bone and muscle at the end of her shorter arm, we will both be concerned.
Creepy Plot Twist. They find the arm. Crawling on the deck by its fingers. They rush it to the infirmary. It starts making writing motions. They give it a pen. It tells them to cut the Russian’s body open.
So, there’s another dimension in which Mundy knows everything going on in this dimension and is sending messages to it via his arm that is trapped in this dimension to save the people here because they’ve figured out everything? Including where their dude’s arm went?
And I just noticed that the Chinese officer is wearing Starfleet insignia.
So they cut open the Russian and find… the missing gyro! They can find where they are, now! “It’s Cassiopeia! It’s upside-down! WE’RE upside-down!”
Oh. Gods. Someone who works in SPACE just in all seriousness uttered the line “We’re upside down!” And further USED this to conclude that the station has been moved to 180 degrees around the Earth’s orbit from the Sun. Because THAT logically follows. That makes about as much sense as my wife and I having the following conversation*:
My wife: “My keys aren’t where I left them.”
Me: “CHECK THE REFRIGERATOR!”
*Not an actual conversation in my house
Plot Twist: There’s the Earth, all right! Apparently the Sun has been there the whole time. Not ONE person on the station realized this or has been trained to shoot the stars? Find the plane of the ecliptic? Basic celestial navigation?
Oh, and it’s Earth in Pale Crewmember’s dimension. Where the station broke up and was destroyed.
Wait, then who was controlling that arm? <Drinks>
Back on Earth (the real one):
These interludes seem to serve literally no purpose other than to get a kid in here with the husband, who assures the kid he’s rescued that “good people will get us out of this.”
“We’re gonna need a lot of good people,” says the kid.
And a bigger boat. <Drinks.>
And where the hell did this guy find a fully-stocked bomb shelter? That has cell reception?
The Protagonists’ Plan: They will fire the Accelerator AGAIN. To get them home. Which will obviously work because that’s what got them here!
Sure, because I always say, if you’ve blown yourself up once playing with chemicals you don’t understand, the best thing you can do is re-mix them up and blow yourself up again!
Jensen, the Pale Mysterious Woman who is The Crew From The Other Dimension learns of this and says: “If you succeed, I’ll be trapped in your dimension.”
Um, why? We’ve already taken it on faith that because it got us and you here, it will get us home. Shouldn’t it magically put you back, too? Granted, it took you from a corridor, and embedded you in a wall, so to be safe, we’d better embed you in a wall before we fire this sucker up.
Crisis: The Chinese crewmember is drowning in an airlock! In SPACE! Because moisture ventilation or something! The airlock is jammed and they can’t get her out. The pressure is forcing the outer door open and…
Oh, gods. The water flash-freezes in the airlock because someone thinks SPACE IS COLD!
Commander: “We need to fix the Shepard and get home!”
Thanks, Captain Obvious! That’s been your plan for an hour now.
Here, Pale Crewmember from Other Dimension: have some clothes.
Sorry, they were for plot-relevant characters only.
Plot Twist: Pale Crewmember reveals that Hamilton’s dead children (wait, WHAT??) are still alive in her dimension. Tragic Backstory Plot Coupon!
And before we try to flip ourselves back into our proper dimension, we’re gonna use escape pods to get to a planet that is now 180+ million miles away from a station that all the people in this dimension believe is dead. Good luck with that!
Oh, I can’t take it any more. The station is falling apart. Another crewmember is strangled by possessed pipe-sealing putty (I swear I am not making this plot up!), and they have to jump between parts of the space station to detach the damaged parts in what is obviously a full gee of gravity.
Oh, no. Jensen has the gun. Literally, how does Jensen know about the gun? She was in the infirmary getting wires cut out of her.
The severed arm is bored. It’s drumming its fingers in its cage.
Yay! We get the station home and the POWER SUPPLY WORKS! On the last possible try! It’s working! HU-MANATEE IS SAVEDED!!!
So we’re gonna leave the accelerator unmanned and come home.
Where everyone is dying of kaiju. Because continuity.