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Cloverfield

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Cloverfield — Monster Mayhem in NYC... As Always

Apr 29, 2008 (Updated May 8, 2008)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Great monster movie; keeps you guessing

Cons:Shaking camera movement; thin plot

The Bottom Line: I know why New York City is called "The City That Never Sleeps" now. Too many monsters keep rampaging through Manhattan.


Hud: Look, all I'm saying is that this thing coulda have come from anywhere! It could have come from outer space!
Marlena: Like Superman?
Hud: Yeah! Wait... you know who Superman is?
Marlena: [sarcastically] Wait, you know Superman? I think I'm feeling something here... Are you aware of Garfield?


I laughed out loud when I first heard this. How could I not? It’s exactly the same reaction I would have given if a member of the female kind surprised me with comic book knowledge. And it’s with this comment that I realized that it’s all about suspension of disbelief.

I can actually accept the Statue of Liberty’s head rolling down the streets of Manhattan. I can believe that another towering monster the size of a skyscraper has a mad-on for New York City. I can even believe that a video camera would be the only survivor in a cataclysmic catastrophe or that a girl can even run up 49 flights of stairs in heels. But a girl displaying comic book prowess? In the words of Joey Lawrence, “Whoa!”

Cloverfield is touted as the next evolution in monster films. Quite honestly, from what I saw in the trailers, I didn’t even know what to make of it. It was vague in its description, other than the fact that some 20-something friends were in the midst of partying when catastrophe strikes. It’s a teaser that definitely caught my attention, but not enough to pique my interest at the time. Still, I knew I was going to see it sooner or later.

Directed by Matt Reeves, produced by J.J. Abrams and written by Drew Goddard, the film follows a going-away party for Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David), who has accepted a job in his company’s office in Japan. The moment is being filmed by his best friend Hud (T.J.Miller), who was given a camera to record the event and the final farewells from his friends and family. During this time, a brief blackout occurs and disaster strikes. A giant monster is rampaging through Manhattan leaving nothing standing. From there on, it becomes survival of the fittest for Rob, Hud, and their friends Marlena (Lizzy Caplan), Rob's brother Jason (Mike Vogel) and his girlfriend Lily (Jessica Lucas), and longtime friend Beth (Odette Yustman). The city is under siege, parasitic crab-like creatures exterminate those in its way, and Clover the Monster barrels through Manhattan like a bull in a China shop. The outcome doesn’t look good for anyone.

As the latest monster flick, I have to give some kudos on the marketing of this film. Very little was given away and it really heightened the interest even more as a result. I felt the beginning dragged out a little too long for me, but I understand that a backstory was needed to invest some time with the human players. None was given to Clover; there was no expository tale given to the creature’s origins and frankly, I’m glad time wasn’t wasted on it. In fact, this film could have easily gone over the two-hour mark, but what would have been the point? I’m glad it was short and sweet just under 90 minutes.

I also feel like I received a Simpsons swerve. Let me explain. Anyone who has watched a Simpsons TV show knows that the first couple of minutes have really nothing to do with the rest of the show. But somehow, those first couple of minutes, no matter how ridiculous it can be, eventually leads flawlessly into the main crux of the show. I felt the same way with this movie. The first 15-minutes takes us through human drama and somehow, out of nowhere, ends up becoming a monster movie. It happens in a blink of an eye, and no one questions how this is done because it hits us quickly with a “Holy Moley” moment.

The whole situation was filmed from a first person’s point of view with a handheld video camcorder. For the most part, Hud was behind the camera giving a play-by-play of the situation. This isn’t the first time this narrative device has been used, with The Blair Witch Project being the foremost in everyone’s mind. It calls for any interesting perspective of things watching events play out. However, it does make for some jarring and queasy movement. The whole shake, rattle and roll bit with the camera is perhaps the biggest reason that will turn people off from this movie. As the young folk would say, “It’s so overdone.”

The initial destruction of New York City hits closer to home with shades of 9/11 still fresh on the mind. The fallen skyscrapers and rumble raining down on people evoke a sense of déjà vu. The brief appearances of Clover throughout the movie remind people that this isn’t terrorism at work. Still, comparisons about how real the destruction is to the events of 9/11 will not be easily forgotten. Looking at how events play out in this movie, I could say that this almost feels like a precursor to I Am Legend, with the latter being the end result.

It was smart to get unknown actors to take us through the streets of New York and for the viewers to relate to them on a common level, though how common it is to see a 25-foot story monster depends on what drugs you need to consume. But even though they are our guides in relating the events to us by acting out every emotional state possible to man, in the end they are really fodder in the entire film.

I had no expectations when watching Cloverfield so I was surprised that I overall enjoyed the movie. Was it perfect? Not at all. Was the plot very thin? Of course. Is there a bigger picture to this? You bet. This is a clichéd monster movie, but the way it was presented made a difference in how things are perceived. Any fan of J.J. Abrams realizes that this story hasn’t ended. For those who are familiar with the TV series Lost will realize that the story has only begun. It’s obvious that this movie has already set itself up for a sequel. But will the revelation take as long as Abrams’ hit TV show? I think suspension of disbelief is needed again.



____________________________________________________________



Another entry in my Funny Pages Write-Off. I hope you can join.



Recommend this product? Yes

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