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precarious since 1997 | by maryann johanson

‘Cloverfield’ fans are Paramount’s slave-labor marketing bitches

Cloverfield is back. Remember the trailer for an unnamed movie everyone was so excited about a few months back, the one before Transformers about a mysterious monster attacking New York and knocking the head off the Statue of Liberty? There’s a second trailer now: it debuted before Beowulf over the Thanksgiving weekend and immediately afterward started showing up on YouTube in an impossible-to-watch cell-phone-cam version.

I watched it anyway, and found myself getting a little cheesed off. Not about the movie itself, but about how Paramount is marketing this. I can’t go into a press screening without having my bag rifled and my body wanded in search of cameras and other recording devices — when I upgraded my cell phone recently, I made a point of getting one without a camera in it so I wouldn’t have to check it with the minimum-wage “security” guards who regularly harass we critics and our guests at screenings. It’s not like those pristine DVDs and downloads of new movies are coming from critics sneaking their cameraphones into press screenings, but we get subjected to this anyway.
But Cloverfield makes it clear, I think, that Paramount wanted geeks to camcord that new trailer, wanted it to end up on YouTube. Perhaps no one in Paramount’s marketing department realized that the first teaser trailer would be such a viral hit on the Web this summer, but they had to know the second one would be. This is the first movie for which “piracy” is a planned part of the marketing.

You can now watch that new trailer (as well as the teaser) in crisp, clear, “official” versions at Apple.com, and it’s even more obvious that it was not primarily intended to be seen in theaters but in a format you can freeze and rewind and rewatch. Lots of intriguing stuff slips by a mere frames. And, of course, you don’t have to bother with analyzing it yourself: All the Cloverfield nerds have done it for you. At CloverfieldNews.com, there’s an ongoing discussion about what each and every shadowy image and garbled sound might be. The sprawling Cloverfield fan community has even ferreted out a connection between the movie and Heroes.

Some folks, like my fellow Film.com contributor Eric D. Snider, are tired of all the coyness on the part of Cloverfield producer JJ Abrams and all the literal gameplaying required to figure out what the damn movie is about. I figure the gameplaying isn’t meant for us grownups but for kids with tons of time on their hands. Who else could be able to post something like this: “For the last few weeks, we have been devoting all of our time to the myspace accounts of the characters.” Seriously? All your time? To a movie that hasn’t even opened yet, and might turn out to suck. (That site, Cloverfield Project, hasn’t been updated since August, so perhaps someone got a life.)

I wonder if all these folks realize that they’ve become unpaid marketing managers for a multibillion-dollar corporation.

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