The Cloverfield Paradox Q&A Reveals the Process Is as Much a Work of Art as the Finished Product
Yesterday, Netflix hosted a Facebook Live Q&A with Cloverfield Paradox director, Julius Onah, producer J.J. Abrams, and stars Roger Davies and David Oyelowo. Now, I’m gonna be doing a hardcore Cloverfield binge this weekend, so I haven’t yet seen The Cloverfield Paradox, but I continue to be fascinated by the release and the reaction, both good and bad. To me, that’s become as much a part of the art as the actual film.
Abrams revealed that his approach to Cloverfield comes from the work of renowned illustrator and Broadway caricature artist Al Hirschfeld, who managed to draw his daughter’s name, Nina, into every single piece he did, along with the number of times her name appeared in each drawing next to his signature. Abrams loves the idea that this provides a through-line between completely unrelated works of art, and that idea inspired the process for this series of films.
The panelists clearly all had fun making this film and getting to be a part of its unique release. What I love the most is that they seem to value that sense of fun and experimentation over what the end result is.
I know reviews haven’t been great for The Cloverfield Paradox, and I’m sure many of you are thinking Um, we wish you would’ve cared more about the end result, y’all! This movie suuuuucked. But in an entertainment climate where it’s all about reboots and superhero tentpoles and adaptations of preexisting source material, where we’re constantly clamoring for anything new, it’s hugely refreshing to have a series of films that doesn’t seem to give a shit about any of that.
They’re not trying to make high art. They’re trying to create a new sandbox to play in. Some of the results of that are going to be awesome, while others are going to suck hardcore. But you can’t create anything new and different without risking that.
We just had The Disaster Artist telling the story of a man who had the audacity to make a garbage movie. The Room was (and is) garbage, but the process became a work of art all its own. Ten years later, that garbage film is a cult classic people sit through regularly, the garbage director had a film made about him, and the story of the making of that film has ended up becoming performance art.
And even having not seen it, I’m sure The Cloverfield Paradox is not garbage the way The Room is garbage.
Something else that came up during the Q&A is the fact that it provides an opportunity for different writers and directors to tell a story in this shared universe through the prism of their own point of view. This isn’t like Star Wars, where writers and directors need to conform completely to the singular vision of George Lucas or Lucasfilm. The entire point of the Cloverfield series is that it’s supposed to be a little disjointed, because creators are very much allowed to tell stories the way they want. I totally respect that, and even if I end up not loving some of the installments, I wouldn’t want them to change their approach.
And I can’t help but notice something pretty amazing about the above photo: that it’s Abrams sitting with three black men. The Cloverfield Paradox‘s director was a black man. The film’s lead was a black woman, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who was unfortunately not at this event. But when we talk about making an inclusive film industry…this is what that can look like, and I think that’s amazing. I don’t want to lose sight of that.
Ultimately, audiences are going to love or hate the film as they will, and some did enjoy it. The comments on the Facebook Live chat were wildly varied to the point where I wondered if people had watched the same movie! For me, while I can’t say yet whether I love the film(s), I already know that I love the ethos behind this series. I think there’s something really important about fun and experimentation, and about being willing to fuck up in the interest of trying something new.
(via The Verge, image: screencap)
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