The Cloverfield universe explained – how JJ Abrams' monster universe fits together

The original Cloverfield movie was an experimental found-footage monster movie produced by JJ Abrams and directed by Matt Reeves, who at the time no-one had really heard of. It starred Lizzy Caplan and TJ Miller before they were especially famous, and took us into the heart of New York at ground level during an invasion by a giant monster.

It was a hit, scoring with the critics and the box office (taking $171m worldwide from a budget of $25m). There was much talk of a sequel, but for a long time none materialised. Until finally one did, totally out of the blue, and not in the way anyone was expecting.

A movie which had the working title Valencia, produced by JJ Abrams and directed by newcomer Dan Trachtenberg, suddenly turned into 10 Cloverfield Lane, complete with trailer, only two months before the film was due to be released.

Sneaky business!

Then in October 2016 he did it to us again, revealing that sci-fi The God Particle was none other than Cloverfield 3 (aka The Cloverfield Paradox) which arrived at the same time as its trailer available to watch on Netflix immediately. Whaaaat? Yep. Read our review.

Has it happened a fourth time with Overlord? It was looking very likely until JJ Abrams came out and said that, no, Overlord is not secretly Cloverlord. But there is another sequel on the way…

It turns out there was even talk that excellent monster horror A Quiet Place was at one point considering becoming part of the Cloververse.

With The Cloverfield Paradox available to watch now, here’s how the movies came about, how they fit in with each other, what’s next, and everything you need to know about the Cloververse.


Cloverfield recap – what went down?

The first Cloverfield movie came out in 2008. It’s a found-footage film where a bunch of young folk at a party in New York witness the invasion of a giant monster who trashes the city, and is eventually destroyed by the military (and yes, it’s definitely dead despite the post-credits “help us, it’s still alive!” sting – we know because JJ said so).

This being JJ Abrams, of course there’s a massively expanded Cloverfield universe. Indeed Cloverfield was one of the earliest and best examples of an online viral campaign designed to accompany the movie and enrich its mythology (The Blair Witch Project, which Cloverfield owes a few quid to, did this years earlier, of course).

The viral campaign and ‘ARG’ (augmented reality game) is vast and nebulous, containing an array of websites with hidden Easter eggs for those who can be arsed. One reoccurring preoccupation throughout is the fictional company Tagruato, which has “groundbreaking deep-sea drilling technology” and also owns subsidiaries Yoshida Medical Research, Bold Futura, ParafFun! Wax Distributors and Slusho!.

Delve too far into the ARG and you’re looking at some serious rabbit-hole diving – enter at your peril, and if you must go there, consider starting with the Cloverpedia.

Anyway, ARG canon would have it that the monster, dubbed ‘Clover’, first emerged from the North Atlantic Ocean, initially destroying a rig (Chuai Station) which was secretly built by Tagruato to investigate it.

How does Cloverfield link to 10 Cloverfield Lane?

10 Cloverfield Lane came out in 2016 and presumably takes place in that year, too. Okay, we’re not presuming, we’re basing this on some thorough and convincing research by ‘Inside A Mind’ involving the ARG:

Definitely worth a watch if you’ve got 20 minutes.

So, according to this, 10 Cloverfield Lane takes place around March 7, 2016, eight years after the incident in New York.

In 10 Cloverfield Lane, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up in a bunker owned by Howard Stambler (John Goodman), who says he rescued her after she had a car accident and took her into the bunker because there’s been a massive attack of some sort, the air is polluted and everyone is dead.

Michelle meets Emmett, who voluntarily came to the bunker after seeing some sort of big flash in the sky. It transpires that what Howard said is half-true. There has been some sort of invasion – by aliens it turns out – but the air is not polluted. She also didn’t have a car accident, Howard deliberately ran her off the road to keep her as some sort of weird surrogate for his estranged daughter.

Howard kills Emmett, Michelle kills Howard and eventually escapes into the world, where she encounters an alien space ship which first sprays her with noxious green gas and then attacks her. She defeats it with a molotov cocktail and eventually heads off towards Huston, where survivors are gathering to fight the invasion.

None of the characters in Cloverfield are ever referenced and the whole giant monster attack eight years before is never mentioned. Instead the implication is that the whole ‘Cloverfield’ incident was probably covered up by the government.

So other than the title and the involvement of JJ, where’s the link?

At first glance, it looks as if maybe there isn’t one, other than the vague idea that they’re nominally set in the same Universe – one where monsters and aliens exist.

Dive into the ARG rabbit hole, though, and you’ll discover more links. Turns out for example, Howard used to work at Bold Futura, a subsidiary of Tagruato, winning ‘Employee of the Month’ in February 2016.

His picture appeared on the Tagruato site with the following text:

Howard Stambler

Telemetry Analyst

Howard will celebrate his seven-year anniversary with Bold Futura in the fall. This month, Howard’s drive, commitment and refusal to accept easy answers resulted in a significant breakthrough diagnosing transmission complications with two of our governmental clients’ orbiting satellites.

If he’s been there seven years in 2016, then he must have started in the autumn of 2009. More ARG clues teach us that Howard used to be in the Navy but left after some crazy secret biz went down – it’s likely he would have been in the Navy during the era of ‘Cloverfield’.

One more Tagruato connection – the job Rob is celebrating starting at the beginning of Cloverfield is with Slusho!, a Tagruato subsidiary which make drinks with the ingredient ‘Seabed’s Nectar’. And we know who came from the seabed, don’t we?

And how does The Cloverfield Paradox fit in?

Like 10 Cloverfield Lane, which began life sans aliens as a tense three-hander called The Cellar, The God Particle started out as a script which had nothing to do with the Cloververse. It was a sci-fi written by Oren Uziel and Doug Jung set on a space station, until Abrams and Bad Robot happened upon it and brought it into the fold.

It’s directed by Julius Onah and stars Elizabeth Debicki, Daniel Brühl, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Chris O’Dowd, Ziyi Zhang and David Oyelowo as scientists aboard a space station, conducting an experiment to create free energy to solve the world’s fuel crisis which accidentally causes the Earth to disappear. Oops!

Daniel Brühl recently spoke a little bit about the film, saying: “It’s based on many interesting ideas about a near-future scenario, which is an interesting vision of what could happen or what might happen with the Earth. I’m a bit scared to talk about it because it’s so extremely secretive. I’m afraid of ending up in a Bad Robot prison.”

The film was released on Netflix in tandem with the release of its trailer and official title – The Cloverfield Paradox – at the Super Bowl 2018. Check out our review.

Here’s what we learned…

The gang have gone into space to attempt to create a new sustainable energy source after the Earth falls into turmoil over oil wars. Instead though, they somehow transport to a parallel Universe which opens up because of the mass power surge from the particle accelerator they’re experimenting with.

This Universe looks a bit like ours, but has some key differences, which come in the form of a face full of worms, a severed and sentient arm and other non-specific horrors. The team must find a way back to their own dimension, and still make the accelerator work to create energy from nothing in order to save their world, while being faced with an alternate world that they might just be abandoning.

The movie is set in 2028 (according to the ARG), and while the ending of the movie sees a big Clover-esque monster bobbing through the clouds (and it’s a grown-up version as opposed to the baby version we see in Cloverfield) we’re possibly supposed to infer that the experimenting that went on in that space station is what caused Clover to appear 20 years previous in 2008.

The biggest clue comes from a short news report the crew are watching aboard the ship which is actually covering their mission. On it is an author by the name of Mark Stambler (Donal Logue) who’s written a conspiracy theory book called The Cloverfield Paradox and is explaining the dangers of messing with a particle accelerator in this way. He predicts experiments like this could open up inter-dimensional portals which could unleash monsters and demons. We have no idea, he says, how this could affect our past – as well as our present and future…

So this is a bit of a Cloverfield Universe get-out-of-jail-free card, but essentially this seems to open up the possibility that the experiment taking place on the space station is responsible for the monsters and aliens that appeared in Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane. Even though the timeline is clearly later than those two films. Because portals! And time travel! How’s that work? We’re not sure.

©  Netflix

There’s also another little Easter egg here. Stambler is the surname of Howard from 10 Cloverfield Lane, another conspiracy theorist. How are the two related? Err… sorry, we don’t know.

In Cloverfield,we saw something like a satellite or a pod falling from the sky behind Beth and Rob on Coney Island. This is mirrored in The Cloverfield Paradox, though the timing doesn’t align (unless more time travel is involved somehow).

Similarly in the ARG, Howard worked on the ‘Sea-Sat’ mission tracking Russian spy satellites (“but what we found up there was much bigger”) before he went to work for Bold Futura. What did he find? Evidence of a rip in time and space caused by actions in the future?

We also noted that the bunker which Michael and Molly are living in back on the Earth besieged by monsters looks very like Howard Stambler’s bunker. We’re not suggesting they’re the same place – they don’t look like the same place – just that this feels like a nod back to 10 Cloverfield Lane with the possible implication that the public has begun to follow the advice of conspiracy theorists like Howard and Michael.

©  Netflix

Other nods to the world include a Slusho! toy on one of the desks on the Space Station, Tagruato branding in Michael’s bunker and a Kelvin gas station (Kelvin appears as a petrol brand in 10 Cloverfield Lane, as well as other Abrams projects.

And what about Cloverfield 4?

It was rumoured (though the sources are vague) that the next instalment was a movie called Overlord. It’s set in WWII, and currently slated for an October 25 release. Initially talked about as a Nazi zombie movie, the current synopsis is a tad more vague on the whole undead front.

©  Paramount

“On the eve of D-Day, American paratroopers are dropped behind enemy lines to carry out a mission crucial to the invasion’s success.

“But as they approach their target, they begin to realise there is more going on in this Nazi-occupied village than a simple military operation. They find themselves fighting against supernatural forces, part of a Nazi experiment.”

This is from an idea dreamed up by JJ and The Hunger Games screenwriter Billy Ray, and it’ll star Fences‘ Jovan Adepo and 22 Jump Street‘s Wyatt Russell.

It’s not a Cloverfield movie, but we had a theory about how it might fit in if had been, which we rather like so we’re just going to leave it here, in case it turns out JJ is fibbing:

Given what happened in The Cloverfield Paradox we thought there was a chance it might be related to the rumoured experiments knows as ‘Die Glocke’ (German for ‘the bell’), a possibly apocryphal ‘super weapon’ which was also linked to experiments around ‘free energy’ research (which is basically what’s going on in The Cloverfield Paradox).

Anyway, it’s not. And two Cloverfield movies in one year did feel a bit excessive (and obviously JJ is pretty busy working on Star Wars: Episode IX. However, he said at CinemaCon that a “true, dedicated” Cloverfield sequel was on the way, which would be released in cinemas. More on that when we have it.

Any word on Cloverfield 5?

And after that? No news but speculation is rife that anything JJ Abrams has his name attached to is going to be a Clover-film. One of the more plausible theories (on Reddit) is that the next movie in the set will be what’s currently called Kolma – a remake of an Israeli moving starring Daisy Ridley and directed by Diary of a Teenage Girl helmer Marielle Heller. It’s a story about a man killed in a car accident waiting in the afterlife for his girlfriend who has to decide whether to join him or carry on living.

Doesn’t exactly sound like a monster movie, but nor did Paradox. The thinking is based on another clue from the ARG involved a closed road in Israel (must be true then) – try Slashfilm for more on this. Could it be we’ll have a female director in the Cloververse before we get one in the Star Wars universe? Yes probably.

Is Star Wars: Episode IX secretly a Cloverfield movie?

No of course it isn’t, don’t be ridiculous. Unless it turns out it is.

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