The Cloverfield franchise has become known for its clever-yet-vague marketing techniques as well as its secrecy. Producer J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot production company like to drop surprises about these films on us in ways we never expected, and they proved that again Super Bowl Sunday when The Cloverfield Paradox dropped on Netflix as soon as the big game was over. Though there were rumors it might happen, there was no official announcement of the release before Sunday, and fans were left staying up late in order to see the latest installment.
Fans weren't the only ones kept in the dark. Abrams revealed during a Facebook Q&A this week that even the film's cast didn't know its official title until they were told about the Netflix release on Sunday. In the same Q&A (via The Playlist), he also revealed another mystery that stretched to the film's entire production team: When they started shooting, they didn't even know they were making a Cloverfield movie.
As many fans already know, The Cloverfield Paradox (like 10 Cloverfield Lane before it) began life as an original sci-fi script called God Particle, by Oren Uziel. Bad Robot eventually acquired the script and went into production. According to Abrams, the team considered the possibility of linking the film to the Cloverfield universe while it was still in the script stage, but it wasn't until shooting was underway that they actually decided to make the connection.
“Originally, it was written by Oren Uziel, who wrote a draft that was its own thing, and was around for a while,” Abrams said. “… We started to think, ‘What are ways that this might fit into the world?’ But when we started shooting the movie, it was still something we were thinking about. Because the idea for the Cloverfield series was not so much that it be this narrative throughline, but more that they be these really fun sort of thrill rides. Like, if you imagine an amusement park, that’s a Cloverfield amusement park, and every ride has a different purpose, but they all connect in some way or another.”
So a film about a particle accelerator test on a space station that goes horribly wrong evolved into part of the Cloverfield universe not in the preproduction stages but during principal photography. While it's not a direct sequel to either of the previous films, and therefore has a good deal of freedom, that's quite a risk to take when you've already started shooting, and Abrams noted that it meant making changes even as the shoot was going on.
“While we were shooting, we were making adjustments,” Abrams said. “This was a movie that went through many different iterations as it went along.”
Paradox has received the weakest critical reception by far of any Cloverfield film to date, but its clever marketing had fans rushing to Netflix to stream it, and it's still being talked about nearly a week after its release. Even if this is a weak link in the franchise chain, The Cloverfield Paradox is not the end. A fourth installment, a World War II-set film with the working title Overlord, is set to arrive soon.
In the meantime, if you still haven't given Paradox a shot, check out Netflix's new trailer.