There’s a solid point in this THR piece by Richard Newby about the different messages being sent by three categories of “giant monster attacks humanity” films: 1) Humans caused the problems, 2) Nature unleashed its fury and 3) Aliens invade. Rampage, it seems, falls into the first group and apparently actually spends at least some time holding people responsible – or at least accountable – for their actions.
That’s cool, but it’s at least the second film this year to explore that concept to some extent. The first one was a movie most critics either slept on or casually dismissed: The Cloverfield Paradox.
Ever since the first middling reviews came out when the movie was released out of nowhere post-Super Bowl I’ve felt it was judged more harshly for two reasons: 1) Its status as a castoff from Paramount, which “dumped” it on Netflix when it was judged as being less than marketable and 2) It was part of a film series that had two very strong entries in its loosely-connected, anthology-like past. 2008’s Cloverfield came wrapped in J.J. Abrams’ mystique as a filmmaker obsessed with the “mystery box” idea and 2015’s 10 Cloverfield Lane was a close-quarters psychological thriller with monster movie framing.
In neither of those movies was the origin of the monsters and other creatures ravaging Earth explained, something that added to their reputation. The Cloverfield Paradox, which began life as God Particle and wasn’t originally connected to the Cloverfield universe, does.
The story (for those who haven’t seen it) involves a group of scientists and engineers who are sent up to a space station to test the viability of a potential source of clean, unlimited energy. That’s essential because like many other recent movies (it’s practically a sub-genre all it own among Netflix originals), the world is descending into chaos because it’s running out of resources for mankind.
After years of failures, the test finally succeeds but the station and its crew are catapulted into another universe like their own but different in subtle ways. Here the station fell back to Earth, killing everyone aboard and quashing any chance of saving the planet. Nations are at war and one of their own is a spy working against the group’s mission.
Meanwhile, back in their home universe, the success of the test has ripped a hole in the dimensional barriers and unleashed all manner of monsters and other terrors on the planet, causing cities to fall and unimaginable numbers of deaths.
It’s never stated outright, but the implication is that we are watching the events that lead to the destruction seen in New York in the first movie as well as the aliens infecting the populace with some kind of nerve gas in the second.
Likely because of the rejiggering the movie went through when it was absorbed into the Cloverfield universe, the crew of scientists and engineers never deal with the ramifications of their actions. In fact, things happen so quickly at the end that the survivors aren’t able to hear what’s happening on Earth before jettisoning back to what they think is safety. We as the audience can see that and judge their actions accordingly, though, so the characters can’t escape our own gaze, even if they’re not held accountable within the story.
There’s one exception to that: Hamilton, the character played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, deals throughout the movie with the repercussions of an action she took years prior that resulted in the deaths of her children. Indeed part of her decision to go on the mission was to escape or atone for what happened.
So there are both large- and small-scale consequences that result from the actions taken both during the story and before we join the action. They may not be seen directly, but that doesn’t make them any less real or any less important.
I’m not sure how Rampage deals with the actions of the scientists who create the monsters or dispenses judgment on their shoulders. What I do know is that in The Cloverfield Paradox the actions of those involved are dealt with just as surely, though possibly in different ways.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.