4 8 15 16 23 42 — J.J. Abrams really has a thing for numbers. Beginning last week with the opening of the Michael Bay summer blockbuster movie Transformers, theater-goers were treated to a mysterious, home-movie-style teaser trailer for… well, no one knows exactly. All that’s known is what’s believed to be the release date, shown briefly at the end of the trailer: “1-18-08”. Until recently, the trailer was only viewable in theaters, prompting people to bootleg it on Youtube and various locations (to which Paramount responded by forcing removal of the videos). However, it’s now been made available at Apple.com/trailers for public viewing.
The teaser starts off with a guy walking into a surprise party – lots of people, lots of happy, smiling faces, and one surprised Rob, their “main dude”. Rob is apparently going away to Japan, and his friends are giving him a farewell party. Some of his friends are interviewed, recording their goodbyes. Then, without warning, the lights flicker, car alarms sound, and the apartment is shaken. People flock to the television for breaking news about what’s believed to be an earthquake. Soon people head to the roof to see how the neighborhood’s doing. A dull rumble is heard, and everyone turns to the horizon in shock as a large ball of fire erupts and expands in the distance, hurling large flaming debris into the air. What follows is broken audio and video of the panic stricken crowd scrambling to the street, which is teeming with people running away from whatever’s happening. What can only be described as a deep, loud groan is followed by a swirling object, which impact a skyrise and falls to the ground at breakneck speed, destroying vehicles and anyone in its way. It comes to a stop meters from the camera and we see it appears to be the head of the Statue of Liberty. And cut. A final quick line is shown from one of Rob’s friends – “It’s gonna be the best night ever”
From producer J.J. Abrams. In theatres, 1-18-08.
What does one make of this epitome of teaser trailers? Well with some digging around, you’d find… almost nothing. The lid on this project has been kept so tight that not even light could escape. All that’s known is that Paramount and J.J.Abrams are behind the project. It’s being referred to with the codename ‘Cloverfield’, and is reported as being filmed under the name ‘Slusho’ as an inside joke for Lost fans (and if you look closely, one of the guys in the trailer appears to be wearing a ‘Slusho’ shirt). Even the release date of 1-18-08 is under debate right now.
After the trailer aired, a website was soon discovered at www.1-18-08.com. When it was discovered, only one picture was visible on the otherwise empty page – a close-up of two women staring in fear at something, at 12:36AM, 1/18/08. Within a day or two, it had been updated with a second photo, earlier from Rob’s party at 12:01AM, 1/18/08. Mysterious indeed.
Speculation about the meaning of the trailer has been rampant. Claims have been made that the movie is about Cthulhu, or Voltron, or even that it’s a movie based on JJ Abrams’ hit TV show Lost. The trailer has sparked discussion from mainstream press and bloggers alike, and people looking for an alternate reality gaming element had noticed unusual activity related to both 1-18-08.com and another puzzle-trail/ARG being referred to as Ethan Haas. This connection was recently debunked by Abrams himself as he discussed the trailer with Harry at Aintitcool News. In that discussion, he explicitly stated that Ethan Haas has nothing to do with 1-18-08 — but that there are other websites that haven’t yet been found, and promises ‘fun stuff on the web’ to come.
So what’s the truth? Well, we don’t know. At this point, we’re at the mercy of Abrams and Paramount. We can hope that connections will soon be revealed, if there are any. Until then, speculation will continue to bubble under the surface, in JJ fan circles and ARG communities alike — note the week-old 78 page thread at the Unfiction forums as an indicator of the buzz. With the suspected release date half a year away, don’t expect a fast-moving game at this point.