Super Bowl Sunday was very, very strange. The Eagles won! Tom Brady fumbled! Then seemingly out of nowhere, we got a new and unexpected Cloverfield film. We were teased with a 30 second spot promising a movie that was “coming very soon” with a direct connection to all both previous Cloverfield properties. For two hours, moviegoers around the world were captivated by what is Netflix's most daring move to date.
Cloverfield isn't a stranger to flirting with clever and unorthodox marketing techniques. The first film had a long and robust ARG (alternate reality game) setting up the world of J.J. Abrams’ unique take on the Kaiju genre. The film itself relied heavily on the power of the unknown, letting the viewer fill in the blanks to create an authentic sort of terror.
10 Cloverfield Lane materialized seemingly out of nowhere; a trailer and a tagline were released just a little more than a month before its release. The cast and crew weren't even informed of the Cloverfield connection until a few days before the official reveal – being more of a spiritual successor than a direct sequel. Lane was a masterful case study on claustrophobic bottle movies and cinematic minimalism. The connections were subtle and understated; they were there to tickle your imagination rather than overwhelm.
And this brings us to The Cloverfield Paradox. The consensus is pretty clear – it's a mess. All over the place with its ideas and ambitions and sub-par in execution, it's a dark spot in an otherwise flawless anthology series. While it is easy to assume that the marketing was more than likely Netflix thinking ahead of the inevitable bad press; in its own way it understands the appeal of the Cloverfield name more than the film itself does.
There are no biases at play - no preconceived notions supported by your typical Hollywood cycle of hype and disappointment. It was a teaser that was quick and effective at selling its premise and nothing more. It evokes images of the vintage theater-going experience, driving past those big, gleaming doors, catching that one poster or title out of the corner of your eye, and capturing your attention and interest with so little. That's what this franchise has always been about – evoking a strong response through minimalism in filmmaking and marketing.
I reiterate that I don't think Netflix had any greater artistic purpose in mind here. For what was an incredibly troubled development cycle, this was the easiest way to make a quick buck and satisfy all parties involved. It only worked because Cloverfield is an established series, and the novelty is bound to wear off if this becomes a ''thing'' for studios everywhere, but it doesn't change the face that, for a brief period of time last Sunday, the Cloverfield franchise reached the apex of its innovation with this worldwide marketing phenomenon.