After months of hype and viral marketing gimmicks, Cloverfield descended upon theaters with a mighty thud, fusing Godzilla with The Blair Witch Project, and offering up a street stain’s eye view of a giant monster tearing New York City asunder.
The film focuses (as best as it can) on a small group of friends trying to survive the night while a giant, mutant, rat/bat…err…thing attacks Manhattan. The creature attacks just as Rob (Michael Stahl-David), a young corporate type on the verge of moving to Japan for his job, has just bid an angry farewell to his beautiful best friend/lover, Beth (Odette Yustman). Beth and Rob had recently spent the night together for the first time in their long friendship, and, even though Rob has blown her off since then, he was shocked that she’d have the nerve to show up at his going away party with a date. As soon as the creature attacks, however, Rob begins to worry about Beth, and matters are made worse by a message she’s left on his cell phone in which she says she’s trapped and injured in her apartment. From here on out, we follow Rob and his cohorts as they try to make their way back to Beth’s building so that he can save her. Rob’s best friend, Hud (T.J.Miller), who has been video-documenting the party all night, continues to film through the carnage and chaos, as “people will want to see this.”
Cloverfield is a giant monster movie for the YouTube! Generation, sporting a gimmick (the unflinching amateur cameraman filming rather than running whole-hog into the East River) that, up until around five years ago, would have seemed preposterous. In 2008, however, someone risking life and limb to videotape an event is more than just believable; it’s commonplace! The idea of marrying media obsession with the Japanese kaiju flick was a concept that I found simply brilliant and inspired, and, despite a few lapses of logic (why Rob’s friends – one of which is a girl he barely knows – would follow him on what seems like a selfish suicide mission still puzzles me) the concept is executed with near-flawless precision and seamless special effects that had my jaw dangling on more than a few occasions. Fast-paced, funny, and exciting as hell, Cloverfield is the very definition of crowd-pleasing entertainment.
Paramount jumps back into the Blu-ray game with a vengeance, delivering Cloverfield in a stunning 1080p presentation that looks wonderful. It’s not quite as sharp and detailed as a conventional film, but seeing as how the movie is meant to look as though it were culled from “found” hand-held footage, any grain or noise here is of the intentional variety. Otherwise, the transfer is gorgeous, although one must be warned that if the motion of the film made you nauseous in theaters, you won’t get much of a reprieve from a big screen HD TV.
The audio is simply bliss. Crisp, clear, and devastating as hell. The Dolby True HD 5.1 mix takes full advantage of the entire sonic spectrum, with everything from the bone-shattering roar of the creature to the quiet clap of a horse and wagon trotting down an abandoned street presented with stunning fidelity. Reference quality stuff all the way, baby.
Cloverfield comes to Blu-ray with a nice selection of extras, most of which are carryovers from the DVD version, but presented in full 1080p! In addition to a feature length commentary from director Matt Reeves, we get two beefy featurettes in “Document 01.18.08: The Making of 'Cloverfield'” and “Cloverfield Visual Effects”, as well asa short look at the creature’s origins in “I Saw It! It's Alive! It's Huge!”. Of less consequence are “Clover Fun” - a short gag reel, and “Alternate Endings”, which offers four different versions of the footage of Beth and Rob’s day at Coney Island. There’s also an alternate viewing mode called “Special Investigation Mode” which shows the film in a smaller screen while a map indicates the whereabouts of the creature and the humans, as well as facts and trivia bits. It’s a nice selection of goodies that offers just enough insight into the film to satisfy fans but not so much as to give away too much about the film’s mysterious antagonist (whose origin will, reportedly, be revealed in the proposed prequel/sequel).
Motion sickness aside, Cloverfield is one of the most refreshingly original monster movies in decades, and Paramount’s exceptional presentation on Blu-ray makes this one an essential addition to your library. This is one I can see myself revisiting again and again.