It’s been 5 years since we were first grasped by Cloverfield’s mystery. No one had any idea what this thing was until it was released on 1-18-08 and it was a freight train. Opening with $41 Million its first weekend, it went on to gain just over $80 Million domestically; with a $25 Million budget, mind you. This very small film became one of the best of the year, aside from everyone forgetting it by December. However, what it did do was bring J.J. Abrams into the light of the mainstream media and made him a relevant name, especially with the upcoming projects he had. These are the 5 reasons Abrams has become one of the most innovative people in Hollywood today, all because of an idea in Tokyo.
1) Mystery. The trailer for Cloverfield was first released before one of the summer’s biggest hits, Transformers in 2007. It came out of nowhere, shrouded in mystery as a hand-held camera documents an immense explosion and the Statue of Liberty’s head flying through New York City, to crash beside our protagonists. It immediately grabbed our attention to unravel this film’s mystery, which Abrams has brought throughout the rest of his films. We only knew three things: It was a monster movie, it was without a title except its release date on 1-18-08, and who was producing it.
2) His Name. Abrams wasn't well known aside from a couple of his television shows, most notably LOST, and his directorial debut with Mission: Impossible 3 (2006). But even then, to strict film lovers he was just the T.V. guy who got lucky. Cloverfield changed that as he gave us the most head scratching trailer in years and having only his name on it as the producer. It was an ingenious idea that had everyone wondering in excitement to what he was going to bring us and who exactly he was.
3) Star Trek. Half-way through production on Cloverfield, Abrams was signed and announced as the director of the newest Star Trek (2009) film. Now, aside from it being incredible, that was the moment where you Googled his name out of intrigue for Cloverfield and saw that he was going to do Star Trek as well, which got a lot of eyes on him from the geek crowd. Think of it as Cloverfield being Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods (2011) and Star Trek being his Avengers (2011), only Abrams came first and Star Trek is better.
4) Ideas. Abrams is one of the smartest guys working in the industry at the moment. He is always keeping busy, always has a project under his belt and this was the start for him. Cloverfield was his baby; as he was in Tokyo for his Mission: Impossible 3 premier, he brought his son into a toy store and saw all the Godzilla toys still on display and still relevant. This made Abrams want America to have its very own monster, and boy did he give us one. He gave us the first found-footage film since The Blair Witch Project (1999) and the marketing worked in his favor, especially considering people didn't think Cloverfield was real.
5) It was good. There are varying opinions on Cloverfield, but the consensus is that most favor it, myself included. It was one thing for Abrams to bring us a monster movie that was enjoyable, except he brought us a monster movie that was amazing. It’s terrifying, has a spectacle about it, and the production value makes you think it’s real even if you know it’s not. He and director Matt Reeves watched 9/11 videos to get the right feel for this film and it works; you feel like you are watching this for the first time and New York is actually being attacked.
Some can argue that J.J. Abrams was well known with his television shows and he was, but Cloverfield was what pushed him over into the spot-light. He proved that he could bring his audience a great film and he did just that, as well as direct three others. Abrams is very much the man behind the curtain, as he always keeps his films secret so your first viewing experience can be a miraculous sight. His newest film, Star Trek: Into Darkness will be released on May 17; this sequel will indefinitely prove if he is one of this generation’s great directors. Here's hoping he is.