It's not often that people covering movies are surprised by major release news, but last year when Paramount Pictures announced 10 Cloverfield Lane was one of those times.
There'd been rumors of sequels to Cloverfield for years, but this was the first time we'd even heard of 10 Cloverfield Lane. It was an interesting way of introducing a potential universe worth of movies that weren't really connected, and it appears they are planning on doing it again.
Originally called God Particle, the upcoming third installment was folded into the Cloververse after production had started and is now referred to as "Untitled Cloverfield Movie". It stars David Oyelowo, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Daniel Brühl, Chris O'Dowd, Ziyi Zhang, and Elizabeth Debicki. Collider recently sat down with writer Oren Uzil to chat about the movie.
"It was written before 10 Cloverfield Lane and the expanded Cloverfield universe even existed as a thing. It was a spec that I wrote probably a year or so after Shimmer Lake, so it definitely existed as its own science-fiction. And then after years of, you know how scripts kind of hang around—people like them but for whatever reason they decided to make it and then suddenly everything fell into place with J.J. [Abrams], Bad Robot, and Paramount. I don't know exactly when it became a Cloverfield movie, but I suspect in this current market where it's just harder and harder to market an original movie of any kind, a science-fiction movie in particular, but I think everyone just knew if it fits—and it does—into that Cloverfield world, it should, and it can only help."
It's a little disappointing to hear, but does confirm something we already knew: Studios are reluctant to take on projects that aren't connected to original IP. However, if it takes tangentially relating your science fiction movie to a previous movie to get it made, then so be it. It also means that they were rewriting the movie during production.
"We rewrote during production, but I'm not sure what it means to be part of the expanded Cloverfield universe, other than knowing what kind of quality and feel you're gonna get from something that's coming out of Bad Robot and J.J. It just sort of helps to give an understanding of like, 'Okay I understand what type of movie this is gonna be.' As far as specifics, I don't think there is one specific thread that makes it a Cloverfield movie, I guess."
The connection does seem to be in name only, which is fine, if that's the way the film is going to be promoted. It appears that's the case, since there weren't any connections between Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane until the very end. These movies seem to be taking the approach that the world is big and that the coincidence of people ending up in the same place just isn't likely. It's a realistic way to approach a universe that has giant space squid ships and space lampreys running around.
"I think if you can get that off the ground, which they are close, it's very smart and also great for makers of science-fiction because it relieves you of that burden of like, 'How are we gonna get people to get off their asses and into the movie theater to see something they're not sure?' It's not a guarantee; the cast is different, we don't know exactly what we're getting, but if that stamp of approval of being part of the Cloverfield universe is enough, that's a huge win. So I'm all for it."
Uziel compares this form of storytelling to The Twilight Zone, mentioning that although the stories aren't connected, you know what you're getting into when you tune in to a Twilight Zone episode. It appears that they are approaching the Cloverfield movies in a similar way, with vastly different stories that analyze the same theme: Survival in an apocalyptic world.
When Uzriel was asked about the story of his upcoming movie, in true Bad Robot form, he didn't give much away — the mystery is too integral to the marketing. But he did mention that his movie is different from other space dramas in that it's much more character-focused, which is never a bad direction to go in.
"I guess for me sometimes those movies tend to be more concerned with whatever the obstacle is, and I'm more concerned with the characters' relationships to each other and that obstacle I guess. So to me, when you say it's a contained astronaut movie, I'm just curious what those astronauts are going through and what they're experiencing and what the character story is, and what specifically the threat is is often less of a concern to me."
One of the reasons that 10 Cloverfield Lane worked so well was that it was 85% about three people in a bunker. The original Cloverfield was much more about viral marketing and the mystery of the monster instead of the characters. If the rest of these movies decide to focus on creating three-dimensional people living in a shared world, then that is a great way to approach storytelling.
The yet-to-be-titled Cloverfield 3 will open October 27th.