A third film in the Cloverfield franchise is on its way, and involves exactly the amount of mystery people have come to expect from these films. We know it’s imminent, and that J.J. Abrams is involved. But… what else do we know?
Hang on, which one was Cloverfield?
Presented as Handycam footage of a monster attack, 2008’s Cloverfield followed six New Yorkers as they attempted to flee the city. The whole production of the film was shrouded in secrecy, with the title kept from audiences until really close to release. The lack of information led to loads of speculation whenever anything did come out - a line from the trailer, “it’s alive!” was misheard by writers at USA Today as “it’s a lion!”, leading to guesses at how the king of the jungle was involved. There were a load of really clever marketing gimmicks done for it, involving MySpace (remember that?) and websites for companies from within the film.
It was a surprise hit upon release, despite some cinemas having to post warning signs about the risk of motion sickness.
And 10 Cloverfield Lane?
A thriller in which Mary Elizabeth Winstead wakes up after a car crash in a bunker deep underground, with John Goodman assuring her that there’s been a massive disaster outside and she has to stay there for years. Or, has there? OR HAS THERE? Or has there, but also, is he just by chance a big wrong’n?
Marketed in a similarly mysterious way, with eerie leaked correspondence, mysterious co-ordinates and what became a real-life treasure hunt. Despite nobody being certain if it was a sequel or prequel or completely different film or what, it got good reviews, did well at the box office and left everything open for a follow-up.
How are they related, then?
They don’t share any cast members or characters, but both are set around the same disaster, a giant monster attack, or possibly two of the same type of disaster. 10 Cloverfield Lane was completely unrelated when just in script form, but as it was developed, the decision was made to expand Cloverfield into a franchise and make it a kind of ‘sidequel’. There was talk of a direct sequel to Cloverfield, but in the wake of both Godzilla and Pacific Rim the feeling was that, for the time being at least, kaiju (big-ass monster) movies were ‘played out’.
The Cloverfield franchise has been likened to The Twilight Zone, standalone stories that shared certain ideas and aesthetics, as well as certain creative personnel - Rod Serling in the case of The Twilight Zone, J.J. Abrams in the case of Cloverfield. The whole thing is the brainchild of the Force Awakens director and his production company, Bad Robot, and it’s been interchangeably described as a franchise and a ‘brand name’.
OK, so what’s this new one, and when’s it out?
Hmm. Right. So. At the moment its official title, which will obviously change, is Untitled Cloverfield Movie. It has also been referred to as Untitled Cloverfield Sequel, Cloverfield 3, Cloverfield Station and, interestingly, The God Particle. This last title was officially dropped on 3 January this year, but had been around since 2012 - much like 10 Cloverfield Lane, the film began life as an unconnected script.
It’s coming out on 20 April, but was initially meant to come out in February 2017. It’s been put back three times since then, to allow more time for post-production, although the recent title-drop suggests it might be being re-tooled in more ways than just polishing effects. Normally knowing so little about a film that was about to come out would seem like a bad sign, but given the history of the franchise it’s hard to say…
Who’s in it?
Loads of people: Daniel Brühl (from Senna), Elizabeth Debicki (from The Great Gatsby), Aksel Hennie (the astronaut in The Martian that nobody really remembers - the male one who wasn’t Michael Pena or Sebastian Stan), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (from the ‘San Junipero’ episode of Black Mirror and soon to be seen in A Wrinkle in Time), Chris O’Dowd (who is obviously in loads of Hollywood stuff but will always be Roy from The IT Crowd), John Ortiz (the baddie from the fifth and sixth Fast & Furiouses), David Oyelowo (from Selma) and Zhang Ziyi (from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Interestingly, the only character named on IMDb is ‘Michael’, played by Roger Davies, who previously played Ziggy in Channel 5’s soap Family Affairs.
What’s it about?
In 2012, incredibly early in its development, it was described like this: “After a physics experiment when a large hadron accelerator causes the Earth to seemingly vanish completely, the terrified crew of an orbiting American space station is left floating in the middle of now-even-more-empty space. When a European spacecraft appears on their radar, the Americans must determine whether it’s their salvation, or a harbinger of doom.” The God Particle title is obviously connected to the hadron collider - has that just been dropped because it’s a bit, well, 2012?
When asked to describe the plot, David Oyelowo gave an intriguing if evasive answer: “Every single day we were on that set we were agog with the inventiveness and innovation, between the technology, the story and the audacity of what we were trying to accomplish. It’s an incredibly exciting and innovative piece of storytelling. It’s incredibly surprising.”
How does it fit in with the other two?
That’s not completely clear, BUT, check this idea out. At the end of the first movie, you see something massive fall into the sea in the background. Suggestions at the time were that it could be a satellite. Could it be the space station from this movie, thus making this one a prequel? In fact, could the space station’s ‘physics experiment’ be the thing that ends up bringing the big Cloverfield monster to Earth from, like, another dimension or something? That could be an incredibly bleak ending for a movie, the characters plunging to Earth in a broken space station, glancing out of the window as they plummet to their doom and seeing a giant monster destroying New York City. Oscars all round, that sounds great. If that is what ends up happening and we’ve ruined it, sorry.
Are they doing weird marketing stuff again this time?
They certainly are! The website of fictional Japanese mining company Tagruato has been updated, presenting an almost incomprehensible message. Almost is the key word: a dedicated Redditor has deciphered it, and concluded it reads:
Tokyo – January 18 2018: Tagruato has begun development on a revolutionary new energy technology in what Ceo Garo Yoshida called a technological great leap forward for our planet. This renewable technology will take at least four years to complete along with another six years International regulatory bodies to bring the powerful revolutionary energy source by April 18 2028.
That date has then in turn led to another site, which has a hella scrambled video on it containing a just-visible woman in glasses. Mysterious!