Explainers

‘Cloverfield’, Explained

March 22, 2018
7 min read

‘Cloverfield’ is one of those films that create such a vibe around themselves that the viewers are either impassive to it or so taken by it that they gorge through every material available to uncover all the hidden layers in the film. For some time, I was the one who watched the film, appreciated it, and moved on. But then, pretty much, out of nowhere, came ‘10 Cloverfield Lane’, and it took me back to the first installment of the franchise. A third part, named ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’, recently premiered on Netflix, and since then the fans of the franchise have been making connections and discovering Easter eggs that connect the three films, in a rather unusual way.

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.

‘Cloverfield’, in a Nutshell

Before we delve into the details, let’s have a quick recap of the film that started it all. It starts with a group of friends, a farewell party and a Handycam. Rob has bagged the job of a vice-president in a Japanese soft-drink company. The night before his departure, Rob’s brother, along with his friends, throws a farewell party for him. Hud, Rob’s best friend, is assigned with the task of recording farewell messages for Rob. Then there is Beth. Rob and Beth like each other. But, it’s complicated. Amidst all these normal things, an earthquake shakes the whole city. And all the frenzy that follows is recorded in the camera by Hud.

Once you read the plot, it doesn’t sound any different from what you’ve already seen before. But that’s the point. The first thing that sets ‘Cloverfield’ apart is its presentation. Had it been made like any other film, it wouldn’t have turned out so good. The next thing is the direction. It is a monster movie, but not quite. It focuses more on the human side of things. And then, there are these questions that we’re left with which the film doesn’t bother answering because it’s not a proper film. It is, basically, something that a guy happened to record while the world was going haywire.

The Prequel Series and the Tie-ins

The awesomeness of ‘Cloverfield’ is that its ingenuity lies not only in itself but also in the viral marketing campaign, and a virtual ‘Cloverfield’ universe that corresponds to several backstories and hidden plots in the film. Everything in this film is important. But, to understand that you’ll have to browse through the websites, Myspace pages, video blogs and whatnot. That’ll be a demanding task, for sure. If you’re into it, begin with the prequel manga series, ‘Cloverfield: Kishin’. It serves as the starting point for everything and introduces various small elements that were not explained in the film. For example, the Japanese company featured in the manga is the same that Rob is going to work for.

Then you can move on to the websites of the companies. There you’ll find news feeds, history of the company, their work line, their ‘research projects’, employee page (featuring some familiar faces), and all that a real company website has. Next, there are MySpace pages of all the characters that appear in the film. And yes, ALL of them.

Remember the girl passed out on the couch when Hud is directionlessly moving the camera throughout the party looking for someone to give a farewell message? Her name is Jamie, and her ex-boyfriend worked for the same Japanese company (or its subsidiary) that Rob worked for. Go through the videos, and you’ll find out exactly how well-connected she is to the whole story. J.J Abrams, the creator of the franchise, has connected the ‘Cloververse’ to his other productions, like Alias and Lost, by Slusho, a Japanese soft-drink! So, yeah, it is much, much more than what you previously believed.

Where Did the Monster Come From?

So, coming down to some basic questions. The nature of the monster that wreaks havoc in New York City is never fully explained in the film. What is it? Where did it come from? Is it an alien? There was a fleeting conversation in the film that indicated that the monster must have come from the seabed. “There are hundreds of species that we aren’t even aware of.” While nothing more was mentioned about it in the film, it was confirmed by the creators that the monster came from the sea, indeed. To understand more about its origins, its characteristics, its anatomy, and the events that led to its awakening, you can refer to ‘Cloverfield: Kishin’.

What Happened to Marlena?

She exploded! Yes, simple as that. You’d think that she was shot dead. But, the amount of blood that we see on the plastic wall doesn’t look like a gunshot splatter. We know that she had been bitten by one of the spidery creatures in the tunnels. So, her spontaneous explosion was possibly due to the chemicals induced in her body through the bite. Before she is taken away by the soldiers in the camp, we see a wounded soldier (whose insides are not quite in) being taken away, and a captured spidery creature in the background. This was supposed to serve as an explanation for the doomed fate of Marlena.

Did Lily Survive?

We see that when the remaining four arrive at the drop-off point, Lily is sent in the first helicopter. We see the helicopter safely flying away. So, perhaps, she did survive, after all. However, as much as I’d like to believe that, it can also be the other way around. When the second helicopter carrying Rob, Beth, and Hud takes off, we see something in the background that goes crashing to the ground. It could’ve been the helicopter carrying Lily. So, to end the debate, believe whatever you want.

Did the Monster Die in the End?

Yes, it did. When Rob and Beth are recording their last words on camera, we can clearly hear the sirens going off in the background. Also, we know that the entire city was going to be laid-off, to contain the damage. While Rob and Beth didn’t survive it (or, did they?), the monster is also counted in as the victim. Also, J.J Abrams confirmed this. So, yeah, the monster is dead as a doornail.

What Was That Falling in the Background?

The last footage of Rob and Beth at Coney Island shows a pod-like object falling from the sky into the sea. This is the satellite of the Japanese company(!), you guessed it, the one that Rob’s going to work for. On the DVD commentary, it is confirmed that it was the falling satellite that awakened the monster beneath the ocean. The director has gone further to explain that the monster isn’t even fully formed. It is a baby that has hatched recently from its egg. It is not as much attacking, as it is trying to understand its surroundings.

What Is the Meaning of the Recording Played in the End?

After the credits roll, an indistinct voice on the camera says “Help us”. When the tape rewinds, it says “it’s still alive.” So, who is this? And if the monster is confirmed dead, then what is it that is alive? The answer to whose voice it is that it could be anyone. (It is the director, Matt Reeves, by the way!)

We know that Hud is not the only one who is recording everything. While they are trying to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, we see that some other people too have their cameras out and about. So, the recording could be of anyone who was there when the monster came. The answer to what is alive is similar to the answer to the first question. Even though in the film, we see only one monster, it is possible that somewhere else, another monster was ravaging the surroundings. Also, Abrams confirmed that the monster in the film was dead. He didn’t say anything about the ones that followed.

Read More: ‘Prometheus’, Explained

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