Not Every Clever Sci-Fi Movie Needs To Be a ‘Cloverfield’ Movie

A Quiet Place exceeded expectations since it was an original entity. Tying it to Cloverfield would've undone it. 

A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place exceeded expectations since it was an original entity. Tying it to Cloverfield would’ve undone it.

Before A Quiet Place crept its way into the marketplace, Paramount was having a poor 2018. They once had the intellectually challenging Annihilation on their slate, but they reduced their investment in the film by jettisoning international rights to Netflix. Then, they sold the rights to The Cloverfield Paradox, which Netflix dropped in a surprise release after the Super Bowl. They even had a disappointment from the animated sequel Sherlock Gnomes. Animated sequels rarely falter. If something could go wrong for Paramount, it did.

The waves of good press and audience reactions to the SXSW premiere of John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place gave Paramount confidence in the film. That led to a big box office success on opening weekend and talks of continuing the franchise. It was a risky endeavor for Paramount because it didn’t have a well-known franchise to sell it. It should come as no surprise that Paramount did attempt to attach it to a franchise. The franchise that is a catch-all for all Paramount films released with a significant risk. Cloverfield.

Ever since J.J. Abrams hit it big with Cloverfield, Paramount has been eager to keep Abrams in the fold and transform movies to fit into the Cloverfield fold. 10 Cloverfield Lane is the perfect example of a great movie undone by needless tie-in. Billed as a surprise entry in the Cloverfield universe, 10 Cloverfield Lane has very little to do with the extraterrestrial until the end. The film conveys a madman who has kidnapped a woman against her will. He uses the caveat of contaminated air to keep her hostage and complaisant. An entire narrative of brainwashing and control is played out to completion, but then there is something else.

Aliens have invaded the earth, and there is poisonous gas. Surprise!

It felt like a manipulative tack on to a movie that stands alone. By changing the name and adding aliens, Paramount was able to slap J.J. Abrams’ name on it and earn millions more at the box office. It was so detached from the original feature that The New York Times review referred to it as “no more than a kissing cousin to its namesake.” 10 Cloverfield Lane isn’t a found-footage horror movie in any shape or form. Paramount was banking on name recognition alone.

The Cloverfield Paradox tried to connect to the larger mythos of the Cloverfield universe but ended up going into an entirely different direction. It is fun trying to watch people do mental gymnastics to make sense of all three of these films having the name Cloverfield. Right now, it is nothing more than a marketing name to connect risky projects into a known franchise.

After seeing the success that A Quiet Place has brought Paramount, their executives are pleased with the results. The film is a hit critically and commercially, with room for sequels in that same universe. This is a huge boon for Paramount who is desperate for new franchises after months of disappointment.

The next step for A Quiet Place is to expand it into different stories. As reported by Brad Gullickson (via Fandango), the screenwriters say there were plenty of set pieces left on the cutting room floor that could be used in other movies. It is easy to see other avenues the universe of A Quiet Place could expand upon; continuing the story from the first feature, following the exploits of a different family, or even a prequel to explain how the world was visited and overrun by alien creatures.

Even though Paramount decided to sell The Cloverfield Paradox to Netflix, they aren’t out of the Cloverfield game just yet. According to The Wrap, there are still plans to transform Paramount’s upcoming WWII-set Overlord into the fourth installment of the Cloverfield franchise. The deal for Cloverfield Paradox was just a one-off, a chance for Paramount to dump a costly mistake and for Netflix to make a Super Bowl splash.

If there is one lesson that Paramount should take from the success of A Quiet Place, it is that not every risky endeavor should come with the Cloverfield brand. It has proven to be nothing more than a name to slap onto science-fiction films to inform some basis of quality. Even that doesn’t work now that The Cloverfield Paradox exists. Perhaps Overlord can be its own project away from the Cloverfield name, and J.J. Abrams can find a new bag of tricks to unveil upon unsuspecting audiences. A Quiet Place was like a breath of fresh air. It was only achievable because it was given the space to stand on its own two feet.

News Writer/Columnist for Film School Rejects. It’s the Pictures Co-host. Bylines Playboy, ZAM, Paste Magazine and more.