Exeter, Devon UK • Jul 18, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Screen Best left unopened: J.J. Abrams’ Cloverfield Mystery Box

Best left unopened: J.J. Abrams’ Cloverfield Mystery Box

5 mins read
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I have a lot of conflicted feelings on the recently released The Cloverfield Paradox and while I could probably spend about five weeks just trying to break it apart, instead, I’m here to break down what I think is the biggest problem of the film; breaking open the mystery box that is the Cloverfield franchise. Before I get properly into it, I’m going to give you some context and I will be discussing all the Cloverfield films in detail so bear with and watch out for some hot spoilers coming in.

A couple of years ago, J.J. Abrams (producer on all the Cloverfield films) gave a TED Talk on the concept of the Mystery Box in cinema. It’s an excellent watch if you’re even remotely interested in film and easily available on YouTube. But to break it down quickly, Abrams talks about how the best bit of films is the air of mystery around them. I don’t know about you but for me, this rings true. Countless times, the hype and the anticipation that build around a film are more enjoyable than the actual film that comes out, often making you wish that the film just hadn’t come out. It’s a touch that is absolutely all over Abrams’ work, both as director and producer.

I’ll bring it back round to Cloverfield in a second but for now, let’s talk about something completely non-divisive: Star Wars. Personally, I’m pro-The Last Jedi, but even as someone who liked it, a huge problem with it was how it dealt with all those mysteries from The Force Awakens, completely swiping away your Snoke theory, which I’m sure was compelling. Who directed The Force Awakens? Why, that would be our old friend Mr Abrams. It’s now common knowledge that when Abrams set up all these mysteries, he had no answers to them. He created a mystery box, fans were pouring over it for two years but when Rian Johnson bust that box open, people were upset. As Abrams predicted in his TED Talk, as soon as the box was open, the mystique was lost.

So then, where does Cloverfield fit in here? Well, part of the reason I love the first two films is that they are coated in mystery, we have no idea where the bad stuff comes from and we don’t even know how the two films link up. Or we didn’t. The Cloverfield Paradox tells us that a particle accelerator sent countless monsters into the various different universes in the multiverse and that all the films are actually set in a different universe but are tied into the same cinematic universe by the opening of some sort of demonic void. I know that doesn’t really make much sense but it’s more of an explanation than we ever wanted and saying “All the monsters came from a dimension where there’s a shit tonne of monsters” feels like a cop out that could never live up to any of the fan theories.

the hype and anticipation that build around a film are often more enjoyable than the actual film

Which brings us back to opening the mystery box. Due to the sheer level of mystery both films created, any answer would be a let down. Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane made the right decision of leaving much of the answers up to the audience, peppering their films with clues and launching viral marketing campaigns for every little detail in them. Paradox ditches all that for a mediocre space film that turns into a limp reason for a potentially infinite amount of future monster films that can have the Cloverfield brand slapped on them. Quite honestly, I’m hoping whatever film comes next for the Cloverfield franchise, it decides to build more mystery boxes and discredit the dismantling of all that made that original Cloverfield movie so interesting a decade ago.

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