Producer JJ Abrams seems set on making ‘Cloverfield’ a sci-fi horror brand to rival that of TV classic ‘The Twilight Zone.’
The ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ director has long been famed for shrouding his productions in mystery, and none have been more mysterious than the two existing ‘Cloverfield’ movies. The 2008 original stunned audiences when its initial trailer appeared with no title, teasing an apocalyptic monster movie shot in the found footage style. This sense of intrigue was built up by a viral marketing campaign, which helped ‘Cloverfield’ become a reasonable box office success, taking $170 million worldwide off a $25 million budget.
This, for a time, looked to be the end of it – until 2016’s ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ arrived, equally unexpectedly. This semi-sequel with John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth-Winstead used a very different set-up – strangers in a bunker following some sort of catastrophe, not shot as found footage – but used it to explore similar themes.
Not for nothing, ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ proved even more profitable than its precursor; shot for only $5 million, it wound up taking $110 million at the global box office. Now, hopes are high that the as-yet untitled third film in the series, due later this year, will follow suit.
The key reason ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ was able to catch audiences unawares was the fact that it had not originally been intended to be a ‘Cloverfield’ movie – and this, it transpires, was also the case on the upcoming third film, which had initially been an original sci-fi thriller entitled ‘God Particle.’
The film’s writer Oren Uzeil tells Collider, “It was written before ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ and the expanded ‘Cloverfield’ universe even existed as a thing… I don’t know exactly when it became a ‘Cloverfield’ movie, but I suspect in this current market where it’s just harder and harder to market an original movie of any kind, a science-fiction movie in particular, but I think everyone just knew if it fits—and it does—into that ‘Cloverfield’ world, it should, and it can only help.”
Directed by Julius Onah (‘The Girl is in Trouble’), the film casts David Oyelowo, Elizabeth Debicki, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daniel Bruhl, Chris O’Dowd and Zhang Ziyi as astronauts who somehow find themselves stranded on an orbiting space station when a disaster occurs. Unsurprisingly, given the enigmatic nature of the series, we don’t know much else right now.
While Uzeil confirms some rewrites were made to fit the story into the ‘Cloverfield’ world, he stresses these did not significantly change the film, and seems hopeful that having a brand name that audiences are growing to recognise may help the film’s box office prospects.
“[The Cloverfield brand is] very smart and also great for makers of science-fiction because it relieves you of that burden of like, ‘How are we gonna get people to get off their asses and into the movie theater to see something they’re not sure?’ It’s not a guarantee; the cast is different, we don’t know exactly what we’re getting, but if that stamp of approval of being part of the ‘Cloverfield’ universe is enough, that’s a huge win. So I’m all for it.
“When you turn on ‘The Twilight Zone,’ that’s sort of the way I think about it. I don’t know what this story is going to be, but I know it’s going to be a ‘Twilight Zone’ story… It’s like an anthology for those kinds of movies, and I think if J.J., if what he’s doing is positioning himself a little bit to be the Rod Serling of J.J.-type science-fiction movies, more power to him.”
The as-yet untitled ‘Cloverfield’ film is due to open in UK cinemas on 1 December.