For over half a year, the public was gripped by the strategic workings of a viral marketing campaign that used mock websites, YouTube, MySpace, and conventional means like movie trailers to generate interest in what would become Cloverfield. J.J. Abrams (Lost, Felicity) monster smash now comes to DVD, and, those who missed it in theaters will finally get the answer to the question…”What the F@#K is this thing anyway”?
In short, Cloverfield is a brief film shot from a handheld point-of-view during the attack of a raging monster who strikes Manhattan. Some of the visuals are brilliant. Some are confusing. Some have you questioning the camera man. In all, it works far more often than it doesn’t.
The film begins with a going-away party for Rob, who is leaving for Japan. Rob is in love with Beth, but is petrified of starting a meaningful relationship with her, because he’s leaving for Japan (to be the VP of Marketing for Slusho!, but unless you followed great sites like www.cloverfieldclues.com, you wouldn’t know that). During Rob’s party, they have a falling out and after she leaves, a giant monster that defies description attacks New York City.
From there, the ride begins. The small group investigates enough to know they’re hosed before trying to evacuate. That ends badly. When Beth calls Rob and says she can’t move and she’s hurt, Rob makes the stupid move to go rescue her. The others, including camera-carrying Hud, follow.
A horrifying sewer scene and disturbing meeting with the military soon follow. The casualties begin to mount. The characters, save for one scene in the subway, seem impervious to breakdown or shock, and overcome superhuman obstacles to get as far as they do.
There are elements of Cloverfield which require the complete suspension of disbelief, something producer Abrams has stated in many interviews. However, it’s not far fetched to believe a majority of the characters’ actions. I would have liked to see some characters melt down mentally and find themselves unable to continue. I would have liked more gore. I would have liked more monster shots, but this wasn’t a film about a monster. It was a film about the reaction to a monster.
Here are my two primary gripes (and I enjoyed the film a lot):
1. There is an extended shot of the creature near the end for no reason other than the “we needed to reveal a long look at it” reason. It’s not a good fit.
2. If, as suspected, Hud was ripped into pieces, Rob isn’t going back for the camera. It doesn’t happen. Sorry.
Overall, I enjoyed Cloverfield a lot. I love the shaky camera work. I think Hud would focus on his friends. He wouldn’t have the mental focus 100% of the time to film the creature, given the events. He should have been one of the ones to break down, if he was as flaky as his dialogue allows, but I didn’t mind his performance.
Cloverfield is a neat movie. It’s not groundbreaking or original, but it is a refresher course to a movie scene that has re-written and re-made everything from chainsaws to chipmunks. For an hour and a half, I enjoyed the ride (though, I’m willing to guarantee a Cloverfield II will be just as enjoyable as the follow-up ride to The Blair Witch Project).
Paramount releases Cloverfield onto DVD with a nice selection (however brief) of extras, including commentary by director Matt Reeves, four short featurettes, additional scenes, and two alternate endings that aren't much different than the one used in the film.
(Previous to my review, Big McLargeHuge reviewed Cloverfield and delivered a Hall of Shame verdict. I don’t argue with Big often, as a matter of fact, the Hall of Shame is what drew me to Horrorview in the first place. But, Big is a monster movie guy. I’m not. I mean, I know enough to know that Godzilla (1998) licked rancid ball sweat, save for Jean Reno, but I don’t claim to know what he knows. So, with that in mind, our perspectives are totally different. Think of it as this; we’re both coming to his film from opposite starting points. He has Godzilla. I have the Blair Witch Project.
That being said, I agree with him on everything else…especially The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Battlefield: Earth. - Cat)