Trying & Failing To Remain Calm Over Cloverfield's Surprise Sequel
In the summer of 2007, moviegoers settled into their seats to watch robots, explosions, and more explosions in Michael Bay’s first Transformers movie. It was released amidst a huge marketing scheme, and became one of the top grossing films of the year. Yet, as the credits rolled, the buzz among audiences wasn’t about the two-and-a-half hour film. It was about a minute-and-a-half teaser trailer for a film that began with Paramount and Bad Robot production logos and ended with no title and no explanation. The movie, called Cloverfield, was the project of a radical new producer named JJ Abrams, whose claim to fame at the time was the television saga LOST and the upcoming reboot of Star Trek. The mysterious teaser set off a brilliant online marketing campaign that echoed a years-long love affair fans had with LOST’s deep web of obscure references and clues. This was viral marketing at its best and—after six months of Internet sleuthing through obscure websites and mysterious press releases for fictional corporations—it culminated in one of the most divisive monster films of all time.
Fans that had spent countless hours digging through clues entered the theater with an unrivaled level of anticipation and excitement. For many, they left with enough steam coming out of their ears and flames shooting out of their heads to give Ghost Rider a run for his money. The film was about a group of New Yorkers celebrating one of their friend’s escape from the concrete hell of Midtown (and Manhattan) before a giant monster climbs out of the Hudson to destroy the city. Unfortunately, the creature did just as much damage to the hopes and dreams of fans as it did to New York. Message boards lit up with impassioned statements on why the movie was awful. So many moviegoers left the film in search of trashcans because of the motion sickness they felt from the home video film style that warnings were issued. It was an unfortunate end to what had become one of the most exciting movie events in years.
Here’s the thing: when the teaser trailer was released, I was a gawky teenager spending weekdays combing the Internet for clues and fan theories about LOST and spending weekends working at a movie theater. I will never forget the feeling of watching that preview for Cloverfield for the first time with tears in my eyes, as a wave of goosebumps washed over my frail body. I remember the moment the entire theater fell into an awed silence at what we’d just witnessed. For weeks, I would sneak into screenings of Transformers, just to watch the preview again and again. I spent months afterward alongside other fans in a viral hunt to learn more about the film as anticipation built for its release. With my birthday landing on January 16th, it felt like the movie was a two days-late birthday present from the cinematic gods. I walked into the theater full of nervous anticipation and left in awe. I fell in love with the visceral film style and the intimate (yet somehow supremely epic) pacing. My heart raced and dropped as the cast moved through Manhattan fighting off subway tunnel monsters and escaped collapsing buildings. It’s been almost eight years to the day since the film was released, and I would still watch it again without hesitation.
You can probably imagine the wave of emotions and strange sounds that left my body when I found out that, fresh off the release of the biggest film release of the decade, JJ Abrams and his Bad Robot production company had somehow made lightning strike twice. Nine years after the Cloverfield teaser trailer, moviegoers went into yet another Michael Bay film and left energized by a mysterious teaser trailer for a film being called “a blood relative” to Abrams’ infamous monster movie. The new film, called 10 Cloverfield Lane, trades in New York City for an underground bunker that gives off serious LOST vibes. As Tommy James & The Shondells’ classic song “Crimson and Clover” (hint hint) plays from an old jukebox, viewers see Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, and John Gallagher, Jr. trying not to lose their shit at the fact they only appear to have puzzles, The Game of Life, and a jukebox to keep them occupied. Without spoiling too much, they lose their shit pretty quickly. But that’s not the best part.
Within hours of hearing about the preview from moviegoers who attended early screenings of Bay’s film 13 Hours, a rabid hunt began online as fans tried to decipher what the preview meant and how a sequel to Cloverfield could’ve been filmed without their knowledge—especially one starring John Goodman. To say I’ve become caught up in the wave of excitement would be an understatement, considering the twelve tabs I immediate opened with different theories and breakdowns about the spiritual successor my favorite monster movie of all time. The film was originally called Valencia and The Cellar back in 2014 and when the three stars signed on for the project, which they had no idea was a Cloverfield sequel. An initial plot synopsis stated that the movie was simply about a woman who wakes up in an underground bunker controlled by a doomsday prepper and her attempts to escape. No monsters. No Statue of Liberty head rolling down the street. No main dude.
Despite the enormous backlash that Cloverfield faced after it was released, fans seem hesitantly excited about the prospects of another descent into JJ Abram’s rabbit hole. Maybe it’s the cinematic equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome or maybe they are ready to forgive and forget. After all, there’s no way of knowing how much of the film will retain the original script or how long audiences will stay in the bunker with the cast. This could all be an elaborate ruse and it could be about what happens when Roseanne divorces her husband and he goes mad, kidnaps people, and creates an underground nuclear family. We just don’t know.
Luckily, fans won’t have to wait six months for answers and potentially heartbreaking disappointment. On March 11, 10 Cloverfield Lane will be released in theaters nationwide.
Stay tuned to Milk for more analysis of critically panned motion pictures.
Collage by Kathryn Chadason.