No Matter What: THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX Is Important
In my rush to begin typing our initial story for The Cloverfield Paradox surprisingly dropping on Netflix, I actually had initially missed the fact that it was being released immediately following the Super Bowl. As I was pulled images and quotes, Twitter informed me that it wasn’t just being released on Netflix...but it was soon to be competing with the Killer Crock Pot melodrama This Is Us for viewers following the big game. I had to stop. This is unprecedented, this is game changing. In my blind excitement I never thought to ask what does this mean as a whole? And then I saw this:
Praise be, Ava, you hit the nail on the head. This is gigantic not just for Netflix or the ever changing industry model of releasing new films on streaming platforms, but simply for representation of men and women of color in the studio system. Gugu Mbatha-Raw went from being fourth or fifth billed in the original snippets of information we received when it was still God Particle, but now she is top billed and the face of the film. Relatively unknown director Julius Onah, a Nigerian-born graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, had his first feature in 2015 with The Girl Is In Trouble which was executive produced by Spike Lee. Now he is helming an event film that is part of an ever growing new franchise of films, that doesn’t have it’s Universe pedigree charted in the MCU stars. This is an incredible moment to be remembered, despite how the film eventually ends up performing, critically and commercially.
I haven’t seen the film yet (damn you Eastern Standard Time!) but questions are already coming up across the internet for those who did get to check it out (damn you Pacific Standard Time!) The first one that I recognized was this one: is it good that a theatrical film was just dropped on to Netflix?
- Low risk, high reward. If Cloverfield isn’t great, it’s not going to change the intended effect Netflix was hoping to have with it. They already got that. I’m sitting here Monday morning, writing furiously about The Cloverfield Paradox, which NO ONE expected. What they are most interested in however is how many new subscribers were gained between the announcement and the end of the game, and how many in total viewed it immediately following the end of the Super Bowl. Another point that I would like to add is this: did we ever really know they wanted a theatrical release? With how the Cloverfield/Abrams mystery train works, this could still have all been distraction from what they inevitably succeeded in doing: making Cloverfield water cooler conversation.
- The surprise release of this film was the best thing the producers could have done for the third entry in a loose franchise that is barely a household name. They transformed a movie that would have possibly landed quietly in theatres, only to have a second life on streaming, like I imagine Alex Garland’s upcoming potential masterpiece Annihilation will do. But this strategy in essence is making its second life its first life. The Super Bowl is one of the most watched televised events of the year, and by releasing a Cloverfield film to that audience, they have immediately caught demographics they otherwise wouldn’t have through typical film marketing means. What happened last night was an “Event Release”, and it will happen again, and we’ll forever have Cloverfield to thank!
The last bit of rumbling I’m going to have to save mostly for my review of the film (I can’t call in sick if I’m already at work right?), but I did want to leave us on this question: what is so inherently wrong with adding an established intellectual property to a script? I understand our hesitation, the Hellraiser franchise definitely doesn’t set a very good precedent, but I want to deconstruct the why. Artistically it sounds awful to take someone’s art and forcibly add elements to better “sell” the film, but the question I want to put in the ether is “What about the added IP elements ultimately detract from the film? If those elements weren’t there, would the film have been helped? Or does the addition of the established IP actually create a more supported structure for the script that was already there?”
What about this makes us feel cheated out of the whole experience? Or is it just the crutch we use to readily criticize a film? Not everything has to have an answer, but these are the conversations we need to be having.