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maryann johanson | #BlackLivesMatter

what is ‘Cloverfield’?

What is Cloverfield?! What is Cloverfield?! What is Cloverfield?!

Nobody knows! But everyone’s talking about it! Let’s see what kind of spike in traffic I can get by saying Cloverfield, Cloverfield, Cloverfield over and over again!

Maybe it’s like Beetlejuice: if we all say the name again and again, it’ll appear like magic, and we won’t have to wait till 1-18-08.
Seriously, what is Cloverfield? Seriously, no one really knows for sure. Yes, everyone thinks they “know” that “Cloverfield” is the code name for the J.J. Abrams-produced project that has that way-cool and very enigmatic trailer attached to Transformers. They don’t show trailers at press screenings, so the first I heard about this was from a commenter on my review of that movie, who was all, “OMG! WTF! Awesome!” (I’m paraphrasing somewhat.) And since 12 gazillion people saw the big robot movie over the last few days, word about the trailer spread quickly.

Now, unlike the way the studios usually deal with trailers — ie, saturating the Web with them — Paramount is being totally circumspect. There’s no official trailer online, and if you browse YouTube, you’ll find a ton of bootlegged versions, videos of terrible quality shot in multiplexes, apparently with cell phone cams. Most of these, you’ll further find, will have been deleted, with a solemn-looking warning in red type reading “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Paramount Pictures Corporation.” But even the bootlegs of appalling quality will give you a good idea of what’s going on: disaster in New York City, captured on the videocams of regular folk. No title for the film is offered — all we are told is that it’s from producer J.J. Abrams (he of Lost and Alias fame), and something that looks like a release date: 1-18-08.

Everything beyond those facts are pure speculation, but here’s the “scoop” as the fanboy network has determined: “Cloverfield” is a giant monster movie. Could be a new Godzilla. Could be it’s really called The Parasite. It will be shot entirely on handheld consumer videocams for that “reality” vibe. Drew Goddard, veteran of Alias and Lost, is writing the script, and Matt Reeves — a writer on Felicity and a TV director with one feature to his credit, the 1996 David Schwimmer “vehicle” The Pallbearer — has just been tapped to direct. No one has been cast yet, and shooting has not yet begun. The film will be released on January 18, 2008. (All this via Ain’t It Cool News, Cinematical, Rope of Silicon, IMDB, Ace Showbiz, Cinema Blend, and others.)

I smell a rat. And not just because it seems highly unlikely that a major studio film could go from “hey, we just hired the director!” to release in six months.

But everyone else is playing right along with J.J. Abrams and his pop-culture psy-ops. (Remember, this is the guy who came up with Alias, and all its many demented twists.) There’s a lot of conjecture about what “Cloverfield” could be. Maybe it’s a Lost movie! (Because the “monster” sound in the trailer is similar to the smoke creature on Oceanic 815’s island.) No, no! The “date” in the trailer isn’t a date at all, but a Biblical reference: the Book of Revelations 1:18 says, “I was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” And Rev. 18:8 reads, “Therefore in one day shall her plagues come, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God who judged her.” (Because there are no other lines in the Revelations that sound like the logline for a horror flick.) And there’s the inevitable slew of comments along the lines of “Oh, no, folks, I work at Universal, and I know it’s not X, Y, or Z.” Ah, the spectacle of the fanboy posturing…

But try to dig up anything real, any source for any of this, and you get nothing. Not a damn thing. Where people are even getting the name “Cloverfield” from is an enormous mystery. It’s all just one big circle jerk of fannishness.

That’s why I smell a rat. J.J. Abrams is yanking our collective chain, trying to see how far we’ll take the slightest snippet of geeky coolness, what kind of nonsense we’ll spin in our excitement. Obviously, the trailer is “real,” in that it is a minute and a half of film actually playing in theaters before Transformers, but beyond that? I bet there ain’t a movie at all — cripes, who would hire the guy who directed The Pallbearer?

But it’s not stopping at a trailer. Now there’s “viral marketing” — some sort of game, Ethan Haas Was Right, and a blog, The Truth of Ethan Haas, refuting the game, supposedly. Though why anyone connects these sites to “Cloverfield” is another big mystery. (I learned of these via a blog called The Common Review, which is suspiciously fakey: it didn’t exist before the beginning of June, and it reeks of the calculated blandness of corporate stuff masquerading as jes’-folks.)

I’m tellin’ ya, it’s all a put on. J.J. Abrams is experimenting on us. And you’re all playing right into his evil game. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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