Cloverfield: Masters of Hype

No spoilers for any of the three ‘Cloverfield’ film follow!

The Cloverfield Paradox dropped in unexpectedly immediately after the Super Bowl this year and was another home run for building hype within the series. Building hype is something that  is now mistaken for showing off as much of the film as humanly possible before its’ release. The ‘Cloverfield’ franchise has quelled that belief and has proven three times now how to successfully build hype in three totally different ways.

The original ‘Cloverfield’ is probably more famous for its viral marketing than the actual film. Attached as a trailer before ‘Transformers’ in Summer 2007, a few clips pieces together revealed next to nothing apart from something big was attacking New York. Even more bizarre was the lack of a title. The trailer and all posters were best remembered for a headless Statue of Liberty with the date 1.18.08 and nothing more. As ‘Transformers’ was one of the biggest hits of the summer, buzz about this strange clip spread like wildfire. Paramount had managed to keep the entire filming of ‘Cloverfield’ under wrapped so no reporters were actively following it before hand to try and get a scoop. Everybody was in the same boat, nobody knew what to expect.

As you’d expect in the months that followed, hundreds of theories appeared. Some claimed it was a new Godzilla film, others reported it was a spin-off from Abram’s ‘Lost’. Possible titles such as ‘The Parasite’ and ‘Monsterous’ were rumoured. What was incredible is no one really came close with any guesses. Considering all big pictures now will have some kind of set leak or rumours that turn out to be spot on, this was something really unprecedented. To add to the mystery even more, characters from the film were given their own MySpace pages (remember that?!) which gave an insight into their lives and that alone. No plot details were hidden within, but that didn’t stop people trying to uncover any secrets. As well as this, a viral site called 1.18.08.com featured time-coded photos of events within the film’s universe, left for readers to interpret. It had only been a few weeks but the interest for the film had only skyrocketed since the initial trailer.

November came around and finally everyone got some answers. The second trailer revealed the title and showed off a bit more action, but still kept the plot and, more crucially, what exactly was causing all the chaos a secret. Even better was there was only two months left to wait. They had let the excitement die down a little only to reignite it with a single stroke of a match. Whereas most big films have their first trailers shown up to a year early, ‘Cloverfield’ showed how a more secretive and mysterious approach can work wonders in the shape of a cool $170 million back on a $25 million budget.

Once the dust had settled, people were already pestering Abrams and co for a sequel. The film’s director, Matt Reeves, hinted that another film had already been made in the same format, following a different group of survivors we briefly see on the Brooklyn Bridge scene, whereas J. J. Abrams was more reluctant to move forward with a sequel. A year past, then another year and still no answers. Both men’s responses to any question about it became more and more vague as the time past. But people still weren’t giving up. J. J. Abrams’ ‘Super 8’ gained attention as a secret sequel to ‘Cloverfield’ but Abrams dismissed this rumour rather quickly. 2012 came around and screenwriter Drew Goddard said how he was ready to move forward with a sequel and that scheduling conflicts between the three was causing such a delay. This was the last piece of concrete information anyone received about a possible sequel and everybody had slowly begun to accept the idea was one that would never come to fruition. But then, on 15th January 2016, something groundbreaking happened.

Audience members who went to see the entirely forgettable ’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’ were treated to an incredible new trailer for a tense thriller, confined within a bunker starring John Goodman. It intrigued almost everyone, then after the Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character looked outside, the word ‘Cloverfield’ appeared (as shown above) and broke the internet. Despite living in an age where nothing is truly kept secret within the film industry, Abrams and co did the impossible once again, and dropped the sequel everyone had been waiting for, for over eight years, out of the blue. Better still is the film would be released in under two months. The hype was happening once again and with such limited time until it dropped, wasn’t going anywhere.

The film released a few TV spots and another trailer that perhaps showed off a little too much, but the majority was still a secret. Despite ‘Cloverfield’ being in the title, we didn’t even know if there was a monster above ground or if Howard is lying. The final fifteen minutes did split audiences, but the majority, myself included, enjoyed it. ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ was not only an improvement over its predecessor, but was one of the finest films of 2016. By doing away with the found-footage format, which had become stale and repetitive thanks to shoddy studio horror films, they managed to keep the franchise feeling new and original. Abrams stated that it wasn’t a sequel, more of a ‘blood relative’, like an anthology series. By putting this film and any other future projects under the ‘Cloverfield’ banner, Bad Robot turned solo films that would’ve been slightly profitable into guaranteed successes.

Following on from the best viral campaign ever and one of the biggest surprises in recent memory, people were on higher alert for any news about the next instalment. Sadly, thanks to a social media age and confirmation there would be more films, it was leaked that a new sci-fi movie called ‘God Particle’ was actually the next instalment within the ‘Cloverfield’ series near the end of 2016. Bad Robot declined to comment before Paramount eventually confirmed it. Time passed and after an initial February 2017 release date, it was pushed back three times to mid 2018. Rumours began at the start of the year that it’s budget had overspent by a lot and that Netflix were interested in picking up the film from Paramount. The element of surprise seemed to have been lost on its third time around and in a way it had. Everyone knew who was starring in it and that eventually it would drop on Netflix. With all this in mind, they still did something pretty unprecedented that I’m sure everyone is now well aware of.

Having it’s debut trailer at the Super Bowl was always a smart move, it’s one of the biggest prime time slots for advertising all year. Announcing it was going to be released immediately after the game was genius. Each subsequent release managed to have a smaller time scale between announcement and release, so making the jump from two months (already insanely short) all the way to around 4 hours is insane. In the days that followed, it came to light that the actors themselves weren’t even aware of the deal until the morning of its announcement, in an effort to try and still surprise the world. While the reaction to it has been pretty negative since release (Including my own), there’s no denying it was another masterstroke of advertising and building hype. With such little time until its release, it was firmly in people minds and not going anywhere. A cynical person may say the studio knew it would receive negative reviews and that Netflix was a more guaranteed bankroll success, but Abrams dismissed this and said the studio found the concept of releasing it online immediately “fun”. Whatever the real reason, ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ still managed to shock us all, despite everyone knowing of its existence.

It’s unclear what state the next film (‘Overlord’) is going to be released in. Perhaps Netflix own the rights to that too, or maybe they’ll go back to a theatrical release, right now there’s no definitive answer. I personally can’t see it going back to the big screen, as Netflix is such a bankable investment on new projects that something with this much of a following will peak interest without fail. Looking at it from a business venture, negative reviews haven’t stopped other Netflix films such as ‘Bright’ or ‘The Ridiculous Six’ from gaining audiences and earning more money in the rights to own it compared to a typical cinematic release. Perhaps Netflix could have yet another selling point with owning any new ‘Cloverfield’ films and releasing them with no prior warnings and let the internet forums do the advertising for them. If you look at the length of time between each initial announcement and release, we went from six months down to two followed by a mere four hours. If the pattern is to be followed for their next release, an instant release wouldn’t be so bizarre and would keep up with the element of mystery and surprise the series has become renowned for. We could be looking at a future instalment being released under the disguise of another title all together and only when the first few audience members emerge from the screening, word of the deception will spread. There are countless ideas for future release and the marketing team probably have the next few already lined up. Despite a really poor third instalment, the next ‘Cloverfield’ film will still be met with excitement and interest on the basis of how well and uniquely the marketing has been handled on three separate occasions. By going against the normality of a typical pre-release schedule of a big film, ‘Cloverfield’ has cemented itself in cinematic history and I can’t wait to see how they handle their next few releases.

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