Why Cloverfield Is The Most Important Modern Movie Franchise
Here's our take on the Cloverfield universe! This is how a small indie film became Hollywood's most important franchise!
The Bizarre Mystery Of The Cloverfield Franchise
Ever major movie franchise has the same problem. How do you keep a film series fresh, yet remain connected? It's a difficult challenge every director and producer of any big film series faces when they attempt to bring audiences sequels over and over again. Few have managed to do this and do it well including Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, X-Men, and Marvel Studios. Each of those franchises were able to reinvent themselves with each new installment while remaining true to the core of what each series represents. With Cloverfield, producer J.J. Abrams has created the most important of all of the modern interconnected movie series.
The films in this unique series are completely stand-alone stories set within a larger world of strange happenings. The story of each of them takes normal people faced with extraordinary circumstances. Abrams says it like this, "I've always liked working with stories that combine people who are relatable with something insane. the most exciting things for me is crossing that bridge between something we know is real with something extraordinary. The thing for me has always been how you cross that bridge." It sums up his career brilliantly as everything he's done from Lost to Mission: Impossible to Star Trek to Star Wars. However, we see this most of all in his original film Super 8 and the Cloverfield franchise.
The mystery box is also a concept Abrams is a big fan of. You can watch his TED Talk on the subject below which I highly recommend. Each of the Cloverfield films is a mystery wrapped in a movie and disguised in another genre like a giant monster film, a psychological thriller, and a sci-fi horror movie. There not a single franchise out there currently that jumps genres like this and does so in a way that makes sense in the universe. It's also awesome that Abrams has given the reigns of each of these films to up-and-coming directors, giving them a shot at making a low-budget movie that has the potential to reach millions of moviegoers around the world.
As a series, Cloverfield represents limitless possibilities. This is important in a world of cookie-cutter franchises we see too often from Hollywood and I'm glad someone like J.J. has taken chances on new film-makers to create their own stories which are loosely connected in this odd world. Something else that helps these movies stand out is their totally unique marketing strategies. The first movie gave audiences the first major viral marketing campaign revealing a mysterious teaser trailer online almost a year before the film's theatrical release. Next, the sequel was shot in secret and only released a trailer online one month before it's theatrical run. Now, the most recent movie had been rumored for a while, but we didn't get a trailer until the Super Bowl which revealed that the movie would be available for streaming on Netflix right after the game. These films have changed the way movies are marketed.
In 2008, Abrams and his friend Matt Reeves released their found-footage film Cloverfield and gave audiences something they'd never seen before. It's a big monster movie told from the intimate perspective of four friends who are trying to survive the attack. The cast of unknown actors and actresses is superb as they make every moment believable and relatable. The entire film has a realistic feel as there is no musical score, and it's all shot on a hand-held camera which is being manned by one of the main characters. The monster is frightening, the action is intense, and the characters are real. This one is the most self-contained story in the franchise, but it helped launch a larger mystery and mythology that fans have been wondering about for ten years.
We had to wait eight long years before we got to revisit the Cloverfield universe, but we did so when Abrams and company took the script for The Cellar and turned it into a thrilling sequel to the exhilarating first film. Casting more well-known actors like John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead was another thing this one did differently, but it was no less effective as they both do some of their best work on screen here playing totally original characters neither of which you're sure you can trust. Goodman is totally different at his quirky and creepy best here, but Winstead particularly gives her character an excellent arc over the course of the film. It's a claustrophobic thriller about a young woman trapped in a bunker by a man who claims that the outside world is uninhabitable. The movie only connects with the larger universe it's set in at the very end, but it's also possibly the strongest film in the series thanks to it's expert direction, a haunting score, and amazing performances.
The latest movie in the franchise is The Cloverfield Paradox. Unfortunately, this movie has been getting mostly negative reviews from critics, but for what reason I can't understand. Maybe I'm just a huge fan of the series or a sucker for sci-fi space horror, but I greatly enjoyed the film and the way it explained the origins of this universe in satisfying ways through a story of an international crew of astronauts aboard a space station who's experiment goes horribly wrong. The cast and budget of this film is the largest of any of the movies so far and each of characters are played incredibly well and the visual effects worthy of the big screen. It's got some great body horror elements and blends some of the best classic sci-fi horror tropes to make an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride like no other. However, the sci-fi minutia doesn't bog down the connection we have to the main character which is the heart of the story. Here all of the answers to fans burning questions about the franchise are finally answered as we finally know how and why the events of the first two films happened, and it only makes me more excited to see future films in the series.
This is the most important franchise out there right now and one that needs to continue for the sake of keeping mystery alive in a world full of spoilers and trailers that give entire movies away a year before they're released. The Cloverfield franchise is J.J. Abrams' Twilight Zone in which he is the Rod Serling who helps young writers and directors craft character-driven stories set in the strangest worlds filled with monsters of all kinds. This series is also a perfect example of economic film-making as each film has been made for under $50 million compared to every other major studio film which is made for around $150 million. The tougher task is always making a smaller movie which has the same, if not greater, impact on the audience forcing writers, directors, cast, and crew to be more creative. It's gonna be exciting to see where the next film goes as it's rumored to be set during World War II. There are endless possibilities here and Cloverfield represents a new frontier to be explored within movies and how both audiences and filmmakers view and create entertainment.