Cloverfield: From "what?" to "wev" in ten minutes flat


In a cultural sense, I am almost always Late to the Party, whatever and wherever the Party might be. Example: Because I never saw Transformers, I never saw the trailers that accompanied the movie's theatrical release. As a result, I was completely unaware of the mysterious teaser for some Untitled J.J. Abrams Project that launched a mighty (though completely unnoticed by me) blogospheric buzz. It wasn't until this weekend, when I visited the Apple QuickTime movie trailer page on an unrelated matter that I ran across the ads for the movie that seems to be named Cloverfield, and so finally became aware of all the viral, cross-referenced hoopla. Guesswork abounds regarding the nature of the menace - Godzilla? Cthulhu? The Stay-Puft marshmellow man? - while Internet sleuths analyze cryptic photos (if you leave the browser open long enough at the site, you get a surprise; adjust your speaker volume) and chase down clues (some red herrings, some perhaps less fishy) across the Web.

This approach (what is it?) constitutes, to some folks, legitimate suspense. To others - all right then, to me - and in this context, it's just a big tease. Teasing can pay off, though. I envision executives at Paramount Pictures high-fiving each other in hallways and toasting their viral conquest (with cups of Slusho, no doubt).

I should note here my raging indifference toward J.J. Abrams. Watched Alias until I became utterly bored with its narrative convolution. Same with Lost, except that the boredom set in much more quickly. Now comes Cloverfield, formerly designated as 1-18-08, and the standard Abrams byzantinity is well at work long before you even settle into your seat at the megaplex, now crafted to deprive you of even the initial comforting notion that you know what's going on.

The upside to this approach, of course, is that you can make people spend days wondering just what's going on. The viral campaign is indeed working; the rampant buzz surrounding this movie makes Snakes on a Plane look like a straight -to-video project. The downside, however, is that...well, people spend days wondering what's going on. The resultant level of expectation is so high that the chances of actually satisfying those expectations will likely dwindle to nil by...what was that release date again?

This is probably where I whack my newspaper a couple of times and yell at kids to get off my lawn. It could simply be that the viral game is best left to the young, to people with the energy and enthusiasm to spend on it. You get a little older and you're less intrigued than annoyed. May the participants find all their questions about Cloverfield answered to their satisfaction, as unlikely as that may be. Personally, I'll probably wait for the movie to show up on the old Netflix queue.


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