Matt Reeves talks 'Cloverfield' Easter eggs, teases 'sit-down' with James Gunn to discuss the future of 'The Batman'
Fifteen years ago, Matt Reeves launched the Cloverfield universe by shepherding the 2008 found-footage monster movie to the big screen. The film's $175 million global gross ensured that there would be plenty more cinematic universes in Reeves's future, including the Planet of the Apes-verse and, more recently, the Bat-verse branch of the DC Extended Universe. But that particular universe is undergoing some extensive renovation as incoming DC Studios heads James Gunn and Peter Safran seek to reinvent the status quo for the company's biggest heroes, starting with an all-new Superman.
Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment ahead of Cloverfield's 15th anniversary on Jan. 18 — the day after an extras-laden 4K Steelbook edition goes on sale — Reeves confirms that he's already had conversations with Gunn and Safran about the future of The Batman, his 2022 franchise-relaunching blockbuster that introduced Robert Pattinson as the younger version of Gotham City's Dark Knight.
"We've talked a few times," Reeves reveals. "I'm supposed to get together with him and Peter sometimes this month. They've been working feverishly on what they're doing, and I've been working hard with my partners on what we're doing — all our shows and stuff. So we're gonna have a sit-down where we talk about everything that's going on and what the arcs of these two things are. I'm excited to hear about what they're doing."
So far, Reeves's announced plans include a second movie for Pattinson's Caped Crusader — possibly starring Barry Keoghan as his clown-ish nemesis, the Joker — and an HBO Max series revolving around Colin Farrell's Gotham crime boss Oswald Cobblepot, aka the Penguin. Those projects have no connection to the rest of the DCEU slate, and part of his impending conversation with Gunn and Safran will involve how they'll run parallel to each other — at least for now. "They have a big plan, and I have this big Bat-verse plan," he notes. "It's just about us really getting to know each other. It's going to be fun."
Speaking of the fun that accompanies potentially connecting universes, there's a backdoor way for the Bat-verse to acknowledge the Cloverfield universe. For much of the 2000s, Reeves and his regular collaborator, J.J. Abrams, made a point of bridging their various projects with connecting Easter eggs, including the fake beverage line Slusho — originally introduced in Abrams's cult spy serial, Alias — the literally addictive drinks later popped up on the big screen in Super 8 and Star Trek, as well as the Reeves-helmed double bill of Cloverfield and Let Me In. In Cloverfield, the distinctive brand name appears on a shirt worn by one of the characters, and a fake Slusho commercial plays in the background of another scene.
Asked whether he has any plans to slip Slusho into the Gotham City beverage supply, Reeves just laughs. "We'll see," he says. "You never know! When I did Let Me In, J.J. was just about to start Super 8, and I was like, 'Hey, are you doing a thing with Slusho? Because it would be fun if we put it in our thing, too.' I don't know if you can see it in the movie: It's in a scene in a gas station. That was the last Slusho thing that I had."
Cloverfield's best standalone Easter egg comes at the end of the film, when viewers learn exactly how the movie's super-sized kaiju arrived in the New York City area. In the background of the final scene, which takes place aboard the world-famous Deno's Wonder Wheel at Coney Island, the camera points out at the water and a satellite is seen hurtling to Earth, landing with a small splash on the horizon. That object awakens an unstoppable killing machine that decimates Manhattan a month later, forcing the military to nuke the whole island.
Reeves says that visual origin story for the creature wasn't part of Drew Goddard's original script or his initial shoot. Instead, the visual effects team added it towards the end of production. "That was added pretty late," he recalls. "We were finishing the visual effects and thought, 'It would be pretty cool to see the moment where it comes down,' and the VFX team said, 'Yeah, we can do that.'
"We knew that we wanted it to be an Easter egg, the kind of thing that would have to be pointed out," Reeves continues. "So we tweaked it a lot in terms of lighting to make the meteor less apparent. But people picked up on things so quickly! There was this other Easter egg that happened during our sound mix: J.J. and I wanted to do this radio crackle in that scene with the helicopters where I say, 'It's alive!' backwards. Within an hour of the movie being released, someone recorded that audio, played it back and figured out what it was! The fandom for the movie at the time was really intense."
Seen today, Cloverfield is a true 2008 time capsule, catching rising stars like Lizzy Caplan, T.J. Miller, Theo Rossi and Ben Feldman — all of whom are victims of the monster's attack — on their way to bigger things. It's also the bridge between the camcorder era and the smartphone era: The iPhone hit the market in the summer of 2007 right when Cloverfield was in production, and Reeves acknowledges that if they made the movie now, it would be shot via smartphone instead of the handheld camera carried by Miller's accidental cameraman, Hud.
"We actually used three different cameras at the time," he recalls. "There was a really small camera that I gave to the actors to hand around to each other and establish how light it was. And then I shot a lot of the movie myself on Hud's camera, which was slightly bigger. I had to put on [T.J.'s] shoes sometimes to do that stuff! And then we had a heavier Viper camera that was good enough for the special effects. But now, you could definitely shoot all of it on an iPhone and the camera would be much more mobile. There's a lot of stuff about the movie that would be easier now, to be honest with you!"
While Cloverfield's technology may scream 2008, the monster itself recalls the timeless thrills of Jaws. That's because Reeves channeled the same approach that Steven Spielberg employed on his 1975 shark classic, revealing the star of the creature feature in small bites instead of one big gulp. "Jaws is the Rosetta Stone for any movie where you have a creature like that," he admits. "But I also looked at a lot of documentary footage from the Iraq War of bases being bombed and stuff. It became very clear that the less you see made it more terrifying, because your brain starts to feel the palpable terror the characters are feeling."
Spielberg, of course, is currently back on the awards circuit for his autobiographical drama, The Fabelmans, which reveals — among other things — that The Greatest Show on Earth kickstarted his obsession with movies. If and when Reeves makes his own version of The Fabelmans, credit for that inaugural theatrical experience will go to a lesser caliber of picture. "It would have been something ridiculous," he says, remembering his first moviegoing experience. "It was probably The Apple Dumpling Gang with Don Knotts and Tim Conway. I don't think that's quite the same thing as The Greatest Show on Earth."
The 15th anniversary 4K Steelbook edition of Cloverfield is available Tuesday, Jan. 17 on Amazon.