Creatures and Catastrophes in Post-9/11 Cinema
The first comprehensive study of a franchise that revived giant creature attacks and plumbed the traumatized human psyche
Upon its release in 2008, Matt Reeves’s Cloverfield revitalized the giant creature, a cinematic trope that had languished for over a decade. The film addressed the attacks of September 11, 2001, trading the jingoistic rhetoric of retributive military aggression for serious engagement with personal and collective trauma. It applied the horror genre’s fascination with personal stories captured by found footage to the grand violence of history. Innovative and intense, Cloverfield represented blockbuster filmmaking at its best.
Cloverfield’s franchising followed the path of high-profile Hollywood properties. This volume provides the first comprehensive overview of the franchise, measuring how it steers precariously between the commercial potential, creative risks, and political challenges in Hollywood. As 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) and The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) struggled to sustain and update the franchise’s original concept, both films’ strengths and weaknesses come into focus by comparison with the original, just as the historical sequence of all three films allows for a reassessment of Cloverfield itself.
Author Steffen Hantke examines how, in the broader context of postmillennial Hollywood, the Cloverfield franchise remains both a harbinger of the way Hollywood does business and a test case for the cinematic fantasies of apocalyptic disaster that continue to dominate global box office, long after the Cold War that gave rise to giant creatures has ended and 9/11 has lost its hold on the global imagination. As an inspiration for the next stage of blockbuster filmmaking, in which franchises have replaced the singular cinematic masterpiece and marketing plays to fans as critics and scholars, Cloverfield remains as relevant today as when it first unleashed its giant creature onto New York City over a decade ago.
"Cloverfield: Creatures and Catastrophes in Post-9/11 Cinema is undoubtedly an exciting contribution to the Reframing Hollywood series. Steffen Hantke uses new and worthy sources to achieve a rounded, cross-sectional appreciation of the film."- Ian Scott, author of American Politics in Hollywood Film
"Steffen Hantke's Cloverfield: Creatures and Catastrophes in Post-9/11 Cinema is a savvy, clear-eyed, and fascinating excursion into the critically underappreciated realm of apocalyptic, Big Scary Things cinema. Deploying this cult film from 2008 as a springboard into a much larger ocean of pop culture, Hantke probes and dissects, exalts and reveals, questions and confirms, and generally celebrates that kind of under-the-radar filmmaking where the subtext is much richer than the glitzy, rapid-fire, tumultuous veneer might at first concede. The author’s zest and brio and passion for his subject are matched only by his capacious knowledge of filmic history, all the way from Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) to The Batman (2022). Any movie lovers diving into this book will experience a roller-coaster intellectual trip that does not neglect their matinee-besotted heart and soul."- Paul Di Filippo, Washington Post Book World reviewer and author of Ribofunk and The Steampunk Trilogy
"Not only does Steffen Hantke provide a thoughtful and thoroughgoing analysis of Cloverfield and its sequels, he offers insightful comments about the films and television programs that influenced and were influenced by Cloverfield. Even readers who are unfamiliar with the films will benefit from reading this book."- Gary Westfahl, author of The Spacesuit Film: A History, 1918–1969