Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cloverfield

Many of the reviews I had heard for "Cloverfield" were fairly mixed. They had liked it but despised the hand-held camera technique that went on and on. "The Blair Godzilla Project" was the tag line that many of them used. There had been huge amounts of hype on the internet driven by a viral marketing program. My expectations were not high but as a Godzilla fan I was interested in seeing a film from a ground level perspective.

I am pleased to say that I was pleasantly surprised, if seeing people get horribly mauled by spider-things and explode later could be considered pleasant.

The movie begins as a recovered video of some guy and his now estranged girlfriend. This two month old video is being taped over by the friend of the guy's brother by current events beginning with a going away party for the guy.

You'll note that I don't use any names. Even though they spend 20 minutes of a 70 minute film attempting to develop characters through the dynamic of this party, I didn't really care much for anyone. I remember that the guy doing the filming was named Hud but the rest have been completely forgotten an hour after the film. Aside from the shaky camera technique (which didn't give me vertigo as it did so many others), this was a significant failing. I didn't care for the people dying when the monster shows up and begins destroying the city, I didn't care when the guy struggles across the city to rescue and then reconcile with his girlfriend, I didn't root for the highly competent but apparently ineffective military, I didn't root for the monster as it destroyed the city. When Hud gets chomped upon by the monster I was thinking about the noise that the auto-focus on the camera was making rather than the emotion of the camera attempting to focus on Hud's lifeless eyes.

People complained about it having too many loose ends but, hey, it's J.J. Abrams, the guy who did "Lost," a show that exists because of loose ends. I don't mind loose ends in a short story, and this is what it is. It's an hour and a quarter long and certainly shouldn't have been any longer than that. I don't care where the monster came from. Don't care what those parasite spider-things are doing. Don't care about the exploding guts. Don't care how the military was on the scene so quickly. Well, actually, I do care but don't need to actually see it on film. That's how a good short story is told.

Not that you aren't told. It may have been too subtle for most movie goers but I saw the the hints that were dropped into the film. I'll spoil the one that comes at the very end when, after everyone is dead and they've wiped out New York the tape cuts back to the couple riding the ferris wheel at Coney Island and you see something fall from the sky into the water.

Oh, did I spoil the ending for you? This is J.J. Abrams, were you expecting anything else? Honestly, like just about every American monster film you've ever seen, there are no surprises and even the things jumping out of the darkness moments are foreshadowed enough so that they don't startle.

All in all, if you can survive the handi-cam cinematography, it's a good kaiju film. Better to wait for the DVD if you get motion sickness. Worth the matinée price.

1 comment:

Mikey said...

just saw Cloverfield today and i loved it. But most of the teenage audience members had comments like "I don't get it", or "That was dumb". I guess they are so conditioned to expect some kind of conclusive closure that involves the monster getting blown to smithereens in some spectacular climactic showdown, that the inconclusive ending just caused their little minds to implode.

To me it would have been too "hollywood" if they had gone for the standard type of ending; it was refreshing to see a different and daring approach for a change.