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January 19, 2008

An Open Letter to JJ Abrams, Cloverfield

This is a pretty cool letter/response to JJ Abrams and Cloverfield...(from chud.com) I pretty much agree.

Hey JJ,

You probably know me as the guy who saw the Cloverfield trailer early and who leaked the final name of the movie. You may also know me as a guy who has been highly skeptical of that same movie, especially of the viral marketing, which I found annoying, stupid and overbaked*. I write this letter for two reasons: to eat some crow and offer my apologies for my skepticism and to ask you to pledge to not make a sequel to Cloverfield.

Cloverfield is a good movie, JJ. Drew Goddard and Matt Reeves did strong work here. I have my problems with the film, and when the embargo on reviews is lifted on Friday I'll detail some of them, but over all you guys made a good movie. It's going to be huge, by the way; I know your tracking is telling you that but I wonder if it's going to be bigger than the tracking indicates. This movie is going to set opening weekend in January records that will remain untouched for a long, long time. And while I didn't have a geekgasm like Harry Knowles did, I think this is a movie that deserves to do well. You guys pulled it off, and as someone who had no faith in the project at all, I'm impressed. I may start approaching Star Trek with a more open mind after this one.

Now on to the second part of this letter: you must promise to never make a sequel to this movie.

This next part may be a spoiler, so people who are peering in on our correspondence should be aware that I will be giving away one minor aspect of the movie, which I do not think will affect their enjoyment of it at all.

One of the things that you guys did most right in Cloverfield is that you never explained where the monster came from. You have the character of Hud give a range of theories, but you never give any answers, and you never give enough context to even let us make an informed guess. I love that. I love that the monster's origins, abilities, name, weaknesses, and favorite color are never divulged. It's part of what makes this movie a little bit special, and more than a little bit different. But in a sequel you will have no option but to explore the monster's origins. Unless you make the exact same movie again, but with different characters, there is almost no way to avoid delving a little deeper into the monster and what makes it tick.

Of course this movie will always stand on its own; technically you could make six more Cloverfields and have the last one be from the POV of the monster as it gets jilted at the prom, leading to the big attack, and this first movie would still exist without a frame being changed. But you understand how what comes later does change what came before. In popular entertainment there's a reverse causality effect, and something that was good can be turned into something that is bad by improper handling of sequels and spin-offs. It's too easy to cheapen things, and the aspects of Cloverfield that make it one of the coolest movies I've seen in some time would be drastically cheapened by a sequel that sheds even the teeniest ray of light on the monster. Leave it as it is.

Again, I'll be reviewing the film in full on Friday, and I hope you come by to read what I have to say. I do understand if you don't - all of that money you're making from this film will not be spending itself, after all - but take my plea to heart, and listen to the inherent wisdom. Shock the world on Monday, JJ. Even after Cloverfield opens to numbers unimagined for a January release, announce to Variety that this is all there is, that there won't be a trilogy or a TV show or a MMORPG or a series of tie-in books. Leave it be. You guys got it right the first time.

Your word eating pal


*The quality of the film in no way invalidates my opinion on the marketing, by the way. This is the kind of movie that would be amazing to discover, and the core audience never had that chance.



Posted by dschnee at January 19, 2008 8:20 AM