Anyone else blindsided by Netflix’ surprise announcement during the Superbowl? I at least knew that there was a Cloverfield movie on the way, and that it had been recently purchased by Netflix. However, I was still under the impression that it aimed for an April release date. That excited me. Then Twitter told me it was actually releasing that night? Whaaa? Thank God for early kickoff times on the west coast and screw watching Jack die on This is Us. The second the game was over (my team lost anyways) I made my rounds saying goodbye at my friends’ Superbowl party and drove home to fire up Netflix.
Before we talk about the movie itself, let’s talk about what I like about this franchise in the making. Where this movie has succeeded above all else is in the marketing, or lack thereof. Remember the initial confusion over what that first Cloverfield movie was? And then the bomb that was dropped with there being a sequel? Now an even bigger bomb of “oh hey there’s a movie, and oh hey we’re giving it to you right now” Genius. This may be the single smartest marketing ploy Netflix has ever done, and I’m sure that one single Superbowl ad still cost less than the glut of Bright billboards that are just now slowly starting to disappear from my commute.
The other thing I really like about this franchise is how loosely tied together it is. Normally not a strength, but it is here. Obviously if there were a big monster attack there’d be a million different stories from a million different places around the world. Why should we be satisfied with just one storyline? Why don’t we ever explore what’s happening elsewhere at the same time? For me, the main excitement of watching this new installment was waiting to see the connection. I loved how 10 Cloverfield Ln threw it in there at the end, and I expected something similar here.
And speaking of the loose connection, I think it’s absolutely genius how each movie thus far falls into a different thriller subgenre. We had a found footage monster chase, a claustophobic escape, and now a lost in space horror. Waiting to see what avenue they go down next will be the single most exciting point for me, I think. There’s already talk of yet another installment underway.
Besides everything I just mentioned, what really had me excited about this movie was the cast itself. Daniel Bruhl (really, you had me there), Gugu Mbatha-Raw, David Oyellowo (shut up and take my money already), Chris O’Down, Ziyi Zhang, I mean come on can you assemble a better cast that has never been seen in this setting? No really, all you cars better clear out my way post-game because (as a friend said on my way out) I got a date with a giant monster.
Okay so I finally sit down to watch the movie. Already going in I’m distracted by the usual shiny objects that keep me from focusing when I’m at home. I stop and rewind the movie a few times. Eventually I realize that this really is another Alien(s)/Sunshine/Life/Supernova/etc movie. The idea behind what’s causing the chaos is unique, but I don’t know how great it’d be if it was released as just a general movie without being tied in to this monster universe. I also think that I would have been far more invested if I was seeing it on a big screen. I spaced out on events and just overall felt like I didn’t get the full impact I would have liked.
The cast did deliver and we did get some cool effects and suspense sequences, I was just underwhelmed. Part of me feels like I wish we could have had more tie in to the universe, but at the same time I realize that those teasing tidbits are part of what make this so special. Still, while the hype that was created was appropriate for the reputation these movies have, I feel like it didn’t create for the best movie watching experience. Yes I absolutely had to watch it immediately, but it also meant I was tired and unfocused and unprepared, and ultimately felt a bit let down.