Sunday evening something unexpected and monumental happened, and I'm not talking about the Eagles beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Netflix's surprise announcement and release of "The Cloverfield Paradox" floored me just as much as Nick Foles' amazing plays.
First announced in 2012 as "God Particle," the film went in limbo in 2015 when Paramount shuttered the movie's label. Then in early 2016 Paramount announced it would release in 2017 under its own label and filming began that June. Afterwards it underwent a name change and multiple delays, with April 20, 2018 as the planned day it would open in theaters. However, just last month Netflix struck a deal with Paramount, which led to last weekend's present of one ad saying "coming very soon" to a second trailer later in the game announcing it was "available right now."
Until the Super Bowl there wasn't a single poster, teaser or other piece of marketing material released intended to build excitement. For the movie to essentially appear out of thin air like this without fanfare or an admission cost is unprecedented. Equally unheard of is the hype around the next "Star Wars" movie.
Also utilizing the large Super Bowl audience, the TV spot for "Solo: A Star Wars Story" was the first glimpse of a young Han Solo, Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian even though the movie comes out on May 25. To compare, the first trailer for "Force Awakens" was released Nov. 28, 2014 and the movie didn't hit screens across the country until Dec. 18, 2015. The secrecy is a little troubling—especially since Ron Howard took over directorial duties from Phil Lord and Chris Miller last June even though the pair was three-quarters through principal photography—yet I hope the decision to be tight-lipped was made because "The Last Jedi" has only just left theaters.
Under the radar releases may be new in Hollywood, but they're almost becoming the norm in other mediums. While not the first, a notable example is when in 2013 Beyoncé dropped her titular album unannounced digitally on the iTunes Store. Since then Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Kanye West and others have put out tracks with little to no notice. In the world of video games, countless independent made titles appear on the front page of the Steam storefront and go on to become viral hits. Copying these entertainment trends is not a bad idea.
As I've written about before, I don't like watching trailers if I’m already planning on seeing the film for fear of spoilers. When it wasn't grabbing awards left and right I knew I wanted to see "The Shape of Water" purely because it was directed by fantasy genius Guillermo del Toro. I heard it was better to go in knowing as little as possible and now whenever an ad airs on TV I scramble to hit mute or change the channel.
Yet I'm a bit of a hypocrite because I will watch Marvel Studios and "Star Wars" trailers again and again. The iconic trailer for "Guardians of the Galaxy" debuted on Feb. 18, 2014 and for the next six months I listened to Blue Swede's earworm, "Hooked on a Feeling." If not for their smart promotion the less-than-well-known franchise would have been a box office dud.
Lack of prior marketing turned Sunday's experience into a social media water cooler moment. The zeitgeist shifted rapidly and Twitter was still chugging away after the game because almost everyone in my feed was watching it simultaneously. It became into a surreal, one-of-a-kind event because live tweeting is practically encouraged from the comfort of one's own couch instead of the cinema.
Reading the stream of hot takes makes it sound like "Cloverfield Paradox" may be not that great, which isn't exactly a surprise given the history of the movie, but who cares? It was essentially "free" if you were already one of millions of Netflix subscribers, like how U2's "Songs of Innocence" was a free surprise to iTunes shoppers. All it costs is 1 hour and 42 minutes of spare time.
With Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the protagonist and David Oyelowo, Daniel Brühl and Chris O'Dowd also in the cast, I hope the movie can be remembered for being daring and diverse. Even if it flops I want the gimmick to outlive the movie because this deserves to become an industry-wide movement.
Let’s transform the lack of promotion from a sign of self-doubt to a mark of confidence. A common business phrase is to under promise and over deliver. Being bombarded by trailers and marketing doesn't help that.