November 01, 2011

Cloverfield

Back in 2007, the hype machine kicked into high gear for a film called Cloverfield.  It was one of those movies that I really wanted to see... while I've never been a monster movie kind of duck, this one seemed to be pretty clever.  When it was released in early 2008, however, I never had a chance to get to the theater and it came and went before I could.   It got good reviews, cleared a tidy $150million over its production costs, and was generally considered a success.  Thanks to the wonders of satellite television and a DVR, I finally got to watch it this evening.

Essentially a Godzilla film for the 21st Century, the concept was that a giant monster is attacking New York City.  The hook, however, is that the entire movie is actually "found footage," from the digital video camera of a guy amusingly named Hud (which is an acronym for "Head's Up Display").  From the initial attack in the Hudson River (just barely seen from a rooftop) to a last desperate attempt to kill it by the US military, everything we see is from the point-of-view of Hud's camera.  We see what he sees, or pointedly doesn't see.

As a result, the monster is for the most part seen only in brief glimpses, and we never see the entire creature in one shot.  This is a great conceit, one that goes a great way towards ramping up the tension of the movie.  We "ride along" with Hud as he follows three of his friends, first in an attempt to get out of Manhattan, then in a rescue run of one of their girlfriends.  Along the way, we see the Brooklyn Bridge destroyed, a battle between the US Army and the monster, people exploding from monster toxin, one tower of the Time-Warner Building leaning against the other, airstrikes, bombing runs from B-2 bombers, an oil tanker capsizing, people being eaten, self-propelled artillery pieces being stepped on, and on and on.  The special effects are excellent.  You can believe that what you're seeing was actually happening and being filmed on a handheld camera... shaky picture and all.  It's quite the wild ride to be honest.  There's a lot of things to like in Cloverfield.

Unfortunately, the characters aren't one of them.  The four main people are Rob, Lily, Marlena and Hud.  Rob's a self-absorbed jerk who drags his friends on a quixotic mission to rescue his girlfriend... who is on the opposite side of the monster from where they are.  Lily is a cipher.  Marlena is a sarcastic, annoying twit who shows one brief flicker of humanity just before she dies, and Hud is a whiny twit who's constant complaining is just grating.  Of course, he's the one who's dialogue we hear the most, mainly consisting of "Rob!  Hey, Rob!  Rob!  Oh my god!  Rob!"  To be fair, they are under a lot of stress... it's not every day a 30-story monster eats your city... and they're supposed to be normal people thrust into a decidedly not normal situation, but I think Director Matt Reeves and Director JJ Abrams went a little too far emphasizing that fact.

I realized about halfway through the movie that, while I couldn't care less what happened to the characters (unless they died... I was okay with that), I was having fun.  That's the mark of an entertaining movie... maybe not a good one, but an entertaining one.  As is, I'd give Cloverfield three and a half stars out of five, with a warning that the "shakycam" style of filming will not suit everybody's taste.  It was definitely worth the 90 minutes, though it's not likely to be a rewatch.

The real star of the film

Posted by: Wonderduck at 09:29 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 I liked this movie too.  Now how much of that was due to the fact that I watched the RiffTrax version I can't really recall.  I just remember I laughed a lot.  
I liked the monster and, although it was annoying at first, it was kind of exciting not knowing exactly what was going on because of the character perspective.  And those people really needed to die...and die a lot earlier in the movie than they did.
I watch a lot of movies I normally wouldn't have because of RiffTrax.  It was the only way I could get thru Battlefield Earth.  And even then it was hard at times.  

Posted by: Gerberette at November 06, 2011 09:09 PM (5DC9/)

2

It's a fantastic idea for a movie.  Monster attack, but not from the perspective of the military/plucky scientists.  Just regular schmoes stuck in the middle of the attack.  Unfortunately, I agree that the characters were lacking.

With respect to the shakycam, I couldn't stand it. I almost got sick in the theater.  I normally don't have any problems with shaky cams or FPS games, but for whatever reason, this movie hit me exactly wrong (especially the part where they go up in the leaning skyscrapers).  It could also have been that I was in the theater - I've noticed that stuff that feels visually overwhelming in the theater is more manageable on a smaller scale...

Posted by: Mark at November 06, 2011 11:33 PM (i24Ag)

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