The Great Cloverfield Mystery


History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of man

Cloverfield. Bad Robot. The Untitled J.J. Abrams Project. That weird trailer before the “Transformers” movie.

If you know what any of that means, then you’ve been successfully targeted with one of the neatest marketing maneuvers since “The Blair Witch Project.”

For the rest of you, here’s the rapid summary. Viewers of the “Transformers” movie have been treated to an untitled movie trailer (some folks think it’s called “Bad Robot” but that’s just the name of the production company, which is flashed on the screen as the trailer begins) in which a handheld camera records a small going-away party in an apartment in New York City. The party breaks up when there’s an apparent earthquake accompanied by a strange roaring sound. The partygoers go up on the roof to see if the view is any better, and they see a terrific explosion, again accompanied by the monstrous roar. As debris rains down, everyone flees in a panic into the streets, where we overhear someone say something along the lines of “It’s alive, and it’s huge.” After the head of the Statue of Liberty is flung into the street, the trailer ends with “From producer J.J. Abrams” and “In theaters 1-18-08.”

People seem really electrified by this trailer. The working title is apparently “Cloverfield” but no one expects that to be the final title. The mystery about the title, the monster, and everything else is helping to really ramp up online speculation and interest, and Paramount is doing their part by having the trailer pulled every time someone posts it on YouTube. (If you want to see it, you can try the version I just watched… if Paramount hasn’t had it pulled again. If so, do a search for “Cloverfield” and see what you come up with.)

J.J. Abrams is pretty darn good at this sort of thing. He’s kept viewers coming back to “Lost” over and over for a couple of years, and a lot of that show is all about perpetuating the ongoing mysteries. And Abrams is pretty well known for both action and character work, so folks are hoping that it’ll be an action movie that won’t get lost in expensive special-effects sequences, like so many sci-fi/action flicks do these days.

A lot of people are guessing that it’s a new Godzilla movie, or else a Rodan movie, or Gamera, or even Cthulhu. Those don’t make a lot of sense to me — the last Godzilla remake was a colossal flop, and I can’t see Hollywood revisiting the franchise. Rodan, Gamera, Ghidora, and the rest are also-rans compared to Godzilla, and I can’t see anyone paying for the rights to those characters. If it’s a Cthulhu movie, I’m gonna have to fight someone, ’cause I love H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos stories, and I’d hate to see Hollywood screw it up this badly. The eldritch monster-gods those old stories were more about blasting humanity’s sanity and less about destroying cities.

There aren’t a whole lot of giant monsters in comics that could carry a movie either. Maybe Galactus, but he’s reserved for the Fantastic Four. I’d love to see Fin Fang Foom in a movie, but I doubt that’ll ever happen. And hey, if it was going to be a comic book movie, we would’ve seen a Marvel or DC production stamp at the beginning of the trailer.

I’m betting it’s an all-new monster. Probably something that landed from outer space, judging by that big seismic “whump” that gets everything started off. That way, the studio doesn’t have to pay royalties to anyone else.

A better question may be whether the entire movie is going to be shot with hand-held camcorders. If so, you’re going to hear a lot of the same complaints about headaches and nausea that you heard from people who didn’t enjoy the camerawork in “The Blair Witch Project” back in ’99. However, if they decide to shoot it traditionally, a lot of the people who are excited about the immediacy and drama of the trailer are going to be extremely disappointed.

So let’s let the speculation run completely wild. What are the best stories you’ve heard about the secrets of “Cloverfield”?

UPDATE: If you’ve got Quicktime, you can see the official trailer right here.

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