Sometimes, it’s hard to tell how fast time flies. In the fifteen years since the release of Cloverfield, the Found-Footage genre has become quite the dilemma. It’s become…cliché. Overuse, overstimulation, and a not-so-surprising rise in cases of motion sickness have led to the genre taking a major backseat in recent years. However, with the recent release of Missing, a new entry in the computer-screen takes on the Found-Footage genre, maybe it’s time we took a look back at the film that revolutionized what a found footage film can be.
A Trailer but no title
To tell the story of CLOVERFIELD, one must begin at the true beginning. Before the film even had a name, a trailer was released to coincide with the July 4th, 2007, release of Transformers. The trailer simply stated a release date of January 18th, 2008, while showing clips of destruction in New York City. In a move that surprised many, the teaser took on a life of its own, fueling online speculation as the film had little to no marketing…well, unless you knew where to look.
CLOVERFIELD employed a risky but effective marketing strategy by using an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) marketing campaign, creating Myspace pages for the cast, filming and editing specific clips for the audience to find in the lead-up to the film. All the while many websites reported the film as possibly being a spin-off of 1999’s Godzilla or even a live-action Voltron film following misconception of a line in the trailer “It’s alive!” being misheard as “It’s a lion!”
The trailer itself showed nothing in regard to the film’s main attraction, the monster itself, but hype built up regardless, as not many had seen the Statue of Liberty’s head getting mangled and tossed into the city. Comparisons were made to the Planet of the Apes franchise, which might have led some to speculate it as a modern take on the King Kong franchise. Regardless, questions were lobbied at on man in particular: J.J. Abrams
Lost and Found
The origins of CLOVERFIELD can be traced to a simple idea had by J.J. Abrams: what would a monster movie truly look and feel like from the perspective of someone who was actively experiencing it? At the time, Abrams was working on Season 3 of his hit television series LOST, which featured its own take on the viral marketing and ARG that CLOVERFIELD became known for.
However, busy with his TV series, Abrams wasn’t able to direct the film, which led him to search out an alternative means of directing the film. Seeing an opportunity, Abrams took the chance on a director the world hadn’t been exposed to, a director who would go on to helm one of the most successful reboot series of all time, Matt Reeves.
Reeves is known today for crafting the three films in the Rise of the Planet of the Apes trilogy and the current head honcho of The Batman and its subsequent sequels and universe. But before he had James Franco acting alongside Andy Serkis in a motion capture suit, he had Lizzy Caplan, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, and Jessica Lucas running from a giant monster invading Manhattan.
The Monster Of Cloverfield
Clover, as the film crew and subsequently the fans took to calling the film’s main antagonist, wasn’t based on any prior Monsters. Toho’s monsters, including Godzilla, had taken to their own lives in Japan, becoming iconic in many, many ways. Clover had a lot to live up to.
Clover was 25 stories tall, yet according to the creators, he is described as being a newborn. Emphasized later by the release of the sequel The Cloverfield Paradox in 2018, the creature can grow to be absolutely massive, able to poke its head above the clouds.
Abrams originally conceived the idea for Clover after he and his son visited a toy store in Japan whilst promoting his previous film, Mission: Impossible III. Upon realizing that American audiences never had their own kaiju, save for King Kong, Abrams decided to make the film about this new monster alongside artist Neville Page.
Page designed Clover to resemble a creature undergoing separation anxiety and confusion, emphasized in the film by a specific scene towards the end where the monster pauses its destruction to investigate T.J. Miller’s character with curiosity…before subsequently biting him in half.
The creature was made to represent the feeling of being lost in an environment unfamiliar, thus becoming frightened and lashing out, hence the destruction.
When faced with the insurmountable task of crafting a film where the characters are all running from something they can’t see, they needed to have a cast that could make the film more believable. But also trying to do seemingly the impossible of keeping the film under wraps, how do you cast a character where the actor has no idea what they are auditioning for?
With no script provided, Abrams and Reeves utilized scripts from Abrams’ previous projects Alias and Lost. Lizzy Caplan, most well known for her role as Virginia E. Johnson in Showtime’s Master of Sex, would go on to state that she signed onto the film without knowing what she was getting into solely because of her admiration for Abrams’ productions, a decision she made clear she would never do again.
T.J. Miller, on the other hand, was virtually unknown at the time of his casting. Having done smaller television roles, Miller was cast as the man behind the camera in his feature film debut. Miller would go on to become popular from his voice work in Dreamworks’ How To Train Your Dragon series as well as to star opposite Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool 1 and 2.
Other cast members haven’t had much attention in recent years, with Michael Stahl-David not appearing in anything truly noteworthy save for the third season of Narcos…although he did appear in a Cloverfield fan film “The Cloverfield Files” in 2019. Jessica Lucas had a more prominent role in Gotham’s second through fifth seasons as the character Tabitha Galavan.
Cloverfield and beyond…
Since the film’s release, it gained a cult-following with the online furvor stirred up by the marketing push online. The film itself holds several secrets that fans are still attempting to put together the pieces.
Two further entries into the franchise have been released, with Dan Trachtenberg helming the sci-fi confinement thriller 10 Cloverfield Lane in 2014 and Julias Onah helming the 2018 space horror film The Cloverfield Paradox.
Abrams insistence on using an anthology series to tell the story of this universe has lead to countless speculations on other films he has had connections to taking place within the universe. These films include Super 8 (a sci-fi film taking place in a small town), Overlord (American Paratroopers fighting Nazi Zombies in WWII), and other films he didn’t have connections with such as A Quiet Place and Underwater, the latter of which united cast members T.J. Miller and John Gallager Jr., who each played significant roles in the franchise.
While fans have been clammoring for a true sequel to the 2008 film, Abrams has announced he has intentions of releasing a true dedicated sequel to Cloverfield. Having stated that the sequel is in production as of now, and the franchise’s insistence of keeping things under wraps until the last possible moment (hell, The Cloverfield Paradox was announced and released the same damn day), its almost impossible to tell when the new film will be released.
Only time will tell. But you can bet your ass that if and when the next film is announced, The Illluminerdi will be right there, reporting on it. Keep up with all future updates on the upcoming film and other nerdy content by following us on Twitter, we’re always watching.