There hasn’t been much in way of recent franchises that really compares to Cloverfield in its niche. The unlikely successes of the J. J. Abrams-produced series of sort-of anthology movies could be viewed the messiest attempt at jumpstarting a movie universe ever. But that’s part of their intrigue. The fact that two of the planned four films of the series thus far have been mostly well-received and exist in their own distinguishable blueprint is also promising. Yes, according to Slash Film, there will be a Cloverfield 4 and it will specifically be titled Overlord.
The synopsis for Overlord goes as follows:
On the eve of D-Day, American paratroopers are dropped behind enemy lines to carry out a mission crucial to the invasion’s success. But as they approach their target, they begin to realize there is more going on in this Nazi-occupied village than a simple military operation. They find themselves fighting against supernatural forces, part of a Nazi experiment.
Knowing the secrecy surrounding Cloververse instalments, there’s no way anyone is fully trusting this information. We’re not even sure what Cloverfield 3 — either known as God Particle or Cloverfield Station at this point — is supposed to be. That being said, it may just be better to hop along for the ride, even if the itch to theorize may be undeniably strong.
One thing that sets the Cloververse apart from the hyper-connected reality of every other cinematic universe out there is the element of surprise; one that is helped along by some stellar marketing campaigns (we see you, Tagruato). In fact, surprise and expectation completely go hand-in-hand with the brand, as counterintuitive as that may be. The world was shocked when 10 Cloverfield Lane randomly landed on everyone in 2016; it was announced mere months before release. Observers have since wised up and figured out the key features in Bad Robot projects that could mean more Cloverfield movies. Having the same production team circling all projects under the Clover umbrella has proven to be the tell so far.
The kerfuffle of press and marketing is but one piece of the puzzle. The Cloververse works because it totally disregards any kind of straightforward continuity, thus moderating audience expectations while keeping interest abuzz for a potential next instalment. Such a flexibility allows an intense monster movie employing some of the most dizzying handheld camera shots to exist in the same storytelling continuum as a taut, claustrophobic psychological thriller. The first two Cloverfield films barely encompass as much of the filmmaking spectrum as it seems the Cloververse is intent on covering. If Cloverfield Station ends up being the space movie that was announced all along, and Overlord keeps to its initial synopsis of Nazi experimentation, that’s two more genres in the bag. Could we be looking at a bigger experiment with categorization and genre rather than any kind of narrative cohesion? In leaving no kind of movie untouched, are the terrors of the unknown in Cloverfield just there to tell us how eternally fucked we are in the grand scheme of things? I ask this, even though I just said we shouldn’t speculate.
In an era of playing catch-up with cinematic universes to really understand the nuances of the franchise’s overall arc, the Cloververse’s inherent mysteries provide a fantastic counterpoint. The ability to be drawn into puzzles and secrets without any tangible information is refreshing in the age of a thousand teaser trailers and countless elusive promises from studios to write certain favorite characters into big movies.
That being said, I don’t think the Cloververse’s tactic guarantees any kind of longevity in the lifespan of a cinematic universe. It could easily backfire depending on how Cloverfields 3 and 4 do. The franchise’s focus on secrecy results in a lack of audience and critical responses before films get greenlit and made. If these movies don’t perform well in actual cinemas, it could cause the series to peter out. This was a tangible fear during the viral campaign of the first Cloverfield film, albeit on the smaller scale. Now, ten years on and with two completed yet unreleased projects, there’s so much more to lose.
No one was truly prepared for the overzealousness of Cloverfield‘s shaky cam approach, as infamously evidenced by stories about motion sickness and nausea in theaters. A Washington Post writer opined that, “Whether one finds Cloverfield fun, however, may depend on one’s susceptibility to cerebral hemorrhage.” 10 Cloverfield Lane was more than just a solid horror film, but definitely initially thrived through an attachment to the Clover moniker; people wanted to know just how connected the burgeoning franchise would be. Yet, whether these movies will come together in some kind of tangible way and finally make sense of the name ‘Cloverfield’ doesn’t actually matter. Almost contradictorily, although we kind of have a blueprint for the Cloververse, everything is still up in the air.