WARNING — SPOILERS AHEAD: This article contains background information and plot details on the film CLOVERFIELD and its viral marketing campaign, and recklessly indulges in spoilers and speculation, so beware.
Paramount’s Cloverfield broke the box office record for best January opening ever, earning an estimated $46 million this holiday weekend. Not so shocking since the J.J. Abrams-produced monster flick was probably the most anticipated film to be released in a month known for its poor box office returns. What is shocking is that special-effects-filled film was made for a mere $25 million, though, that’s not counting all the money spent all its well-known viral marketing campaign.
And what a campaign it was. You can say it all started on 2007’s Fourth of July weekend when an unnamed trailer debuted in front of Transformers. The teaser showed a group of friends at a surprise going-away party for their pal Rob, who’s leaving the next day for his new job in Japan. Right in the middle of the merriment, the building is rocked by what feels like an earthquake. When the party-goers hit the streets to see what happened, WHOA!, flying through the air comes the head of the Statue of Liberty.
Now that’s an attention grabber. Since the teaser didn’t have a name, it became known simply as “Cloverfield” to the hordes of Internet browsers wanting to know WHAT IS THIS MOVIE?!?! Soon after, viral Web sites began springing up, including www.1-18-08.com, which eventually became the film’s the official site. More cryptic were the other sites, which we’ve found out more recently may hold a key to the origins of the Cloverfield monster: slusho.jp, a fictional Japanese company that makes the “Slusho” frozen drink (seen previously in other J.J. Abrams projects); tagruato.jp, a site for the bogus deep-sea drilling company Tagruato; and tidowave.com, the environmentalist organization T.I.D.O WAVE which is fighting against Tagruato. (According to Cloverfield Clues, the T.I.D.O. site was recently locked by the “Internal Affairs Department” presumably for allegedly destroying Targruato’s Chuai oil-rig station and attacking the company’s CEO Ganu Yoshida.)
What do all these viral sites have to do with the New York-based Cloverfield? Well, as it turns out, main character Rob revealed a few weeks ago on his MySpace Blog that the job he’s taking in Japan is as the V.P. of Marketing and Promotions for Slusho. Slusho happens to be owned by Tagruato and the company’s CEO Ganu Yoshida was planning a trip to NYC to meet with the owner of BevVo, the largest privatized water manufacturer in the world, to discuss distributing Slusho through pre-established public waterways and to tour potential Slusho manufacturing plants in the United States.
T.I.D.O. is against Tagruato because they claim that Tagruato’s research and practices are destroying our oceans, which would be the cause for T.I.D.O.’s alleged guerilla tactics.
Now, how does this involve the monster? A recently released Japanese online manga tie-in (said to be the first issue of four) follows the story of Kishin, a Japanese boy who, along with his mother, has something to do with the monster. Simultaneously, we’re shown a cargo ship at sea pulling something chained to the back; we don’t seen exactly what’s being pulled until the last panel when a pair eyes emerges from the water. The ship bears the Targuato logo. (Cloverfield Clues has an English translation; Wired also has coverage.)
So, that ship could be pulling the “Coverfield” monster OR possibly its mother. According to the film’s production notes, Abrams claims that “Clover” is a baby who’s been “down there in the water for thousands and thousands of years.” In the film, it’s insinuated that the confused, frightened monster sprung up from New York Harbor (hence, its first target, The Statue of Liberty) where it either overturned an oil tanker or was disturbed by a capsized oiler tank. According to Cloverfield News, the oil tanker looks like it too bears the Targuato logo.
According to FSR, director Matt Reeves revealed to them that in the final scene with Rob and Beth on the ferris wheel at Coney Island a month before the monster attack, something can be seen splashing into the water behind them. (The clue was to “Watch the skies, my friends. Watch the skies.”). Speculation is that this was the monster either falling into the water, or just splashing around in it. (See image just below at right of the splash in the water.)
But, if the monster was down in the water for thousands of years already, how could it have fallen from the sky? Another theory is that it could be the rogue piece that recently fell off the Japanese government’s “ChimpanzIII” satellite. Why? Because according to the Tagruato Web site, coincidentally, Tagruato scientists and engineers are working on tracking down the missing piece which disappeared into the Atlantic Ocean (the Targuato site is currently “down for maintenance”). Perhaps the fallen satellite is what disturbed the monster’s slumber. Also, according to Cloverfield Ending Credits, the main ingredient for Slusho is found at the satellite deep ocean dropzone and that while searching for satellite and ingredients, Targuato woke the Cloverfield monster. The main ingredient of Slusho apparently has the power to turn a tiny fish into a huge whale (explains the monster’s size) and since deep sea creatures naturally have very high heat resistance, this is why the monster was unaffected by the military bomb attacks.
Whatever the cause, the skyscraper-sized monster is awake now and seemly impervious to military assaults. The filmmakers realized that because of the monster’s size and strength, there’d be no way for the human characters to have intimate contact and combat with it. That’s where all those smaller spider/crab-like parasites come in. If the monster started out as a baby with maybe microscopic parasites on it, it would make sense that if the monster grew to a much larger size, so would the parasites. Apparently, once the monster tore into the city, it was able to remove these pests from its body by rubbing its back against a building, thereby setting the fast-paced and now very vicious parasites free to ravage the citizens of New York City.
And here’s where we get into the super-unknown territory. While we know that the monster is just scared and hungry, chomping away on the tiny little humans, what we don’t know is what the parasites are out for. Typically, a parasite will attach itself and live off a larger organism. In the film, the parasites are smaller than the humans and are attacking by biting. Perhaps they are just blood-sucking parasites? There’s no evidence that they enter the human bodies and take over their new host. Either way, the affects of their attack on the humans is unexplained. Soon after Marlena, one of the main characters, is bitten, she begins bleeding from the eyes and then it seems like her stomach explodes (the audience doesn’t get to see this up close, since Marlena is behind a tarp when this happens and only the outline of her body is shown).
Why don’t we see the gore? In case you didn’t know, Cloverfield is filmed from the perspective of Hud, Rob’s best friend, who was tasked with the recording of Rob’s going-away party. It’s Hud, who, armed with a handycam, captures the Statue of Liberty’s head crashing onto the street in front of their building. From there, Hud and Rob, along with their friends Marlena, Lily, and Jason, attempt to cross the Brooklyn Bridge during a mandatory evacuation of New York City. Rob then receives a phone call from the woman he loves, Beth, who’s injured and trapped in her apartment in midtown — the opposite direction of the evacuation route. That’s when the group decides to turn back to rescue Beth. Their journey — interspersed with footage of the monster’s rampaging — is all captured by Hud’s shaky video camera work, which is why certain aspects of the film are left to the audience’s imagination.
Where does Coney Island come in? Rob’s brother Jason took Rob’s video camera to use at the party, but never put in a new tape. (Why Rob would have a camera that still requires tape is quite interesting, considering the camera seems to have a very high battery life as well as night vision of all things!) Hud was inadvertently recording over footage taken a month prior when Rob and Beth spent the day together. (Rob had always been in love with Beth, but they had been “just friends” until that day when, unbeknownst to their friends, they slept together, then spent the next day having fun in Coney Island). This is why the old footage of Rob and Beth will periodically appear on screen and why the movie ends with the couple on the ferris wheel.
What happened to the monster, the parasites, and the rest of the city? Reports from movie-goers are that if you stay until the movie’s end credits, you can hear someone say “Help us.” This could mean that Rob and Beth, who at the end were trapped under a bridge in Central Park after the military bombed it, could still be alive. Also, it’s said that if you play the audio backward, you can hear someone say, “It’s still alive,” which could mean that the Cloverfield monster is still alive.
As far as the humans go, even if Rob and Beth didn’t survive, Lily was evacuated by military helicopter and last we saw, she survived. We know from the beginning of the movie that the reason we’re seeing this film is because some time after the attack the tape was retrieved. But, we also know that the morning after the attack, the military was going to destroy NYC if they couldn’t defeat the monster. Since the bridge in Central Park where Rob and Beth were hiding under gets bombed by the military that morning, it can be assumed that Manhattan is destroyed. OR, perhaps, since the monster conveniently showed up in Central Park, maybe the military was able to kill the monster and maybe even save Rob and Beth.
Judging by the tape’s survival and the new pictures that were posted on the film’s official site, either the monster was defeated or it gave up the attack and left the city. (I think it’s the latter.) One photo from the site shows a man in a small boat floating in bloodied water; another shows the bloody, bitten into carcass of a whale or some other sea creature. (See the images here after left; click for larger view.)
So, with a film this successful, what about the inevitable sequel? B-D spoke with director Matt Reeves, who said, “Only time will tell. While we were on set making the film we talked about the possibilities and directions of how a sequel can go. The fun of this movie was that it might not have been the only movie being made that night, there might be another movie! In today’s day and age of people filming their lives on their iphones and handy cams, uploading it to youtube…That was kind of exciting thinking about that.” So, if there’s a sequel, it might be chronicling the same events, but through the lens of another person’s perspective.
It’s obvious, though, that this is not the last we’ve seen of Cloverfield.