Cloverfield

I finally got to see Cloverfield few days ago, but I never got around to writing up a review. I have to preface this review by saying that I went to see this movie clean. I did not really pay attention to the viral marketing stuff that was going online. All I saw was the official trailer which was awesome. Based on the trailer I had huge expectations but few people who saw the film on the premiere day told me it totally didn’t live up to the hype, or even the trailer. Few days later I talked to someone who liked it but admitted it was not really as awesome as it was made to be. So I went in expecting to be entertained but not blown away.

Cloverfield Poster

This is essentially what happened. Cloverfield is a new take on one of the oldest themes in movie history – the giant monster attack. In most of the productions of this type, starting with Godzilla and ending with… um… The American remake of Godzilla we follow a group of characters who are always privy to the information about the monster, and are in position of stopping it or luring it away. Sometimes these are misunderstood scientists, other times they are heads of state, military leaders and etc. No one before told this type of story entirely from the perspective of the little people on the streets of attacked town who are desperately trying to avoid getting stomped on.

Cloverfield fills this niche, and uses the big creature from the depths of the sea (or wherever it came from) as a backdrop for the human drama taking place on the ground. In fact, the point of view we see is even more restricted. The movie is filmed with a Blair Witch shaky cam to look like an amateur recording of the monster attack found in the ruins of Central Park at some undetermined point in the future. The characters are a group of young people caught in the thick of things, trying to escape the city and avoid being killed by the monster, or by accidental friendly fire of the military forces sent to fight it. We never get an explanation for the monsters arrival or it’s origin story. It’s just a nameless force of nature that is just there.

The Head of Statue of Liberty

It’s actually a great concept! To bad the execution was a bit sub-par. First, the monster was only interesting when they didn’t show him. The sound effects, explosion and tension building devices were all executed perfectly. Unfortunately the cgi done on the monster itself was less than spectacular. I think the golden rule “less is more” would apply here. There are several scenes in the movie in which we get a very good look on the beast and it is neither scary, nor distinctive. There are memorable creatures in the movie history but the Cloverfield thing is not one of them. It essentially doesn’t look like anything – to me it was a cross between a frog, king kong and a praying mantis. Or something like that. I think that by making it so alien looking the CGI team unintentionally made it awkward and forgettable.

But as I said before, the monster is not the main focus here. It’s the human story that counts. But, it is a story that we have seen before. We have the obligatory pair of lovers who had some falling out just prior to the monster attack. The crisis will bring them back together and help them to discover their true feelings for each other. We have the comic relief sidekick who always says inappropriate things at the wrong time. He also happens to be the camera man, and his name is Hud. Is that a play on the acronym H.U.D. or am I just looking to much into it?

Explosions

There is also a token minority friend whose personal drama takes second fiddle to the central love story, but who is destined to survive this crisis due to the Hollywood logic. Everyone else is a walking casualty that can be exploited to heighten the drama. Predictably enough, the boy and the girl get separated and trapped in different parts of the city. The boy and his friends decide to go and rescue the girl which takes them directly into immediate vicinity of the monster and the funny sounding crab/insect looking parasites that jump off of him. And that’s about it. There is not much else to it. And that’s the disappointing part. The story is astonishingly simple, and the relationships between characters are a bit shallow and one dimensional. We don’t really get to know them well enough to care about them. There are a cohesive group of friends, and there is no rift or internal conflict between them.

With this premise, they could have easily made the film half an hour longer and work in some powerful character driven subplots, and expand on the relationships between the protagonists much more. It could have delved into psychological and social aspects of the catastrophe. It could have shown the natural leaders of the group buckling down under these circumstances, and the weak and timid assuming leadership roles responding well to the pressure. They could have shown intense drama of having to choose between helping a friend in need and the instinct to run away save oneself when faced with these sort of circumstances.

Hazmat Suits

But there is none of that in there. All our protagonists hold up pretty well. They all support each other, and stay together till the very end. And Hud keeps filming even when he is being attacked by the small monsters, or when climbing a very steeply inclined roof of a ruined building.

Don’t get me wrong though. There are some intense moments in the movie, few twists and and an ending that may either shock you or piss you off. The acting is good, and all the cast members deliver convincing performances. Other than the monster effects, the CGI and sound effects are spectacular. With the exception of the parasite/small monster sound. This must be the stupidest sound effect I have ever heard in my life. It belongs in a Saturday morning cartoon, not in a monster movie.

The shakycam work was pretty decent – bad enough to look realistic, but not enough to make you sick. The action moves fast, and there is never a dull moment. There is no time to be bored, and the film genuinely keeps you on the edge of your seat most of the time. It is a solid dose of entertainment, but it could have been so much more.

[tags]cloverfield, cloverfield movie, movies, review[/tags]

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16 Responses to Cloverfield

  1. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I must have been distracted by something when the monster was on-screen… I watched this last week and still couldn’t tell you what the monster is.

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  2. I thought Cloverfield was a great monster movie. I think it was very well done. I was in Midtown in 9/11 and although I hate to compare a movie and 911, It gave me a similar feeling. Disorientation, panic and dealing with somthing you didnt understand….

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  3. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    [quote comment="8042"]I must have been distracted by something when the monster was on-screen… I watched this last week and still couldn’t tell you what the monster is.[/quote]

    Exactly – despite many great shots of the beast from various angles it is still a shapeless mass of limbs and various body parts. Not memorable at all. :P

    [quote comment="8044"]I thought Cloverfield was a great monster movie. I think it was very well done. I was in Midtown in 9/11 and although I hate to compare a movie and 911, It gave me a similar feeling. Disorientation, panic and dealing with somthing you didnt understand….[/quote]

    I wanted to stay away from the Cloverfield – 9/11 comparison. I do realize that the movie makers probably wanted to draw these parallels but it is still somewhat of a touchy subject to many people. So I decided not to touch that.

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  4. Dave UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Mac OS says:

    Does any one else think ‘six figure jobs’ is a troll, based on the fact that this website link leads to a job matching site….not to mention the fact that his name is six figure jobs???

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  5. srlinuxx UNITED STATES Konqueror Linux says:

    I thought the whole movie was a big disappointment. The one good look I thought I got of the monster was at the end when he ate one of the last survivors of the little group. And like you said, it wasn’t impressive.

    I didn’t like the Blair Witch style cam filming. It made the movie hard to follow and you could never really tell what was going on. Any time anything started happening, all you heard was gals screaming (too loudly) while watching a sideways shot of feet running. Filming wasn’t as cleverly executed as Blair Witch and I concluded at least the Blair Witch was scary.

    Cloverfield was neither scary or even interesting. I fell pray to the hype and was very disappointed in the end result.

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  6. Mackenzie UNITED KINGDOM Safari Mac OS says:

    I’m sorry, but this movie bored me too tears. The monster wasn’t there. The parasite bites that made people explode was barely brought into it. The explosions were satisfyingly boomy, but not much else. It was a “9/11″ movie in the sense that every movie made in New York that doesn’t feature singing nuns is a 9/11 movie.

    (spoilers)

    But the worst thing

    The very very worst thing

    Was the characters.

    Right, so you decide too make a movie about a band of friends who are the little people during a godzilla attack. Of course, the audience should be able too empathise with the characters, right? That’s what makes the movie so effective, right?

    Then why the hell have they got a generic, corporate asshole sucking band of shallow, self centred idiots?

    It starts with the interviews of everyone at “robs going away party.” Rob is a generic suit. He looks like david beckham in the sense he has overdone hair. He’s the type who runs out of conversation the moment it drifts away from cars or the pros and cons of various types of hairgel/condoms/bland american airplane literature. He’s the kinda guy who has a myspace saying he’s an easygoing guy. And then another sentence too similair effect. And then runs out of things too say. In short, Rob is boring asshole.

    We get too see some of the ISSUES behind Rob and Whatever the female leads name is relationship. Why when the monster comes, he just HAS too rescue her.

    Uhm, oh. Shouting in a back alley about who slept with who. Uh, what? Who are they talking about? We don’t know. We just know that Rob has a girlfriend who dresses with low cut tops, Cos she’s a generic babe. And that they have tiffs over, something or another, I’ve actaully forgotten.

    HeadsUpDisplay is a slightly overweight, mediocre looking frat party type. He provides the narration. Because, youknow, like, HUD shouting “HOLY SHIT. OH MY GOD. HOLY SHIT. SHIT. FUCK. HOLY SHIT. OH SHIT. HOLY SHIT. OH MY GOD.” really brings depth too his character. it explains why he’s got a near suicidal urge too confront parasite antlions with his friend Generic Suckhole Rob, too save his melonbreasted girlfriend.

    There’s minority token girl, who has a low cut top. Don’t remember what happens to her. Ohyeah, she gets on a helicopter or something. Snooze. Seen that in I am legend. It was like a replay of the I am legend helicopter scene, but with Generic Ted instead of Will Smith. Sorry, Generic Rob.

    Finally there’s Myspace Girl. Myspace girl is a sulky, introverted, selfish bitch. We know she’s a selfish bitch because HUDs clumsy advances in the party scene were met with rejection. Because after all, Myspace girls aren’t supposed to not-like frat party boys. It’s their whole purpose in life. Her character exists soley too give frat party boys the satisfaction of seeing the girl that rejected them on the basis of them being college crunchball morons, explode in a cloud of bloodsplat. For about a second. Then it goes back too Generic Rob. Youknow she’s a sulky, say-nothing cow for the entire time she’s there. Her purpose is too have Myspace hair. She sulks, and then gets bitten. Apparently the massive gaping bite wounds in her shoulder doesn’t really affect her that much, and she’s able too carry on walking, although getting a bit dizzy, until they get too the army hospital with obligatory hazmat suits. Then she bleeds from her eyes. I thought that was just new emo makeup they were using for product placement.

    They’re on the roof. Stuffs exploding. Oh, cool. Somone shouts something about it maybe being a terrorist attack. That’s your 9/11 reference.

    Statue of liberty gets decapitated. Head slides down street. That’s pretty cool.

    They bicker, then start walking. Walking walking walking.. fast forward.. bickering, sulking, walking.. Hud says something about people wanting too see “how the shit went down.” That’s his suicidal urge. Too see the shit hit the fan. Wow, I’ve met gnats with more meaningful lives.

    Antlion Dog bone bug things. They’re pretty freaky. Myspacegirl get’s bit. Total indifference.

    Walking walking walking..

    Myspace girl explodes. Freakass. Alright.

    Walking, climbing tower..

    Forget it. It would only bore you.

    You’d expect a movie like this too give some kinda “Oh, The Humanity!” comment about trying too rescue a loved one from a giant fucking monster. But it never happens. The characters never, ever, not in one instance, comment on the destruction of manhattan outside their immediate experience. They never grieve. They never say anything about the world. The giant fucking monster that’s stomping tanks and blowing shit up might give them cause too look for some kind of meaning in their corporate governerd lifecycles, but that never happens either. They just kinda say shit a lot, and then sulk, and then give a thousand yard stare as they contemplate how this would make a shit hot livejournal entry. I hate these characters. They’re lifeless. They’re cardboard cutouts. They’re selfish, egotistical, arrogant and narrow minded. These aren’t people you want too like. I spent most the movie wishing the camera would stop with these jerks and cut too one of the army guys legging it towards the monster. What his story is. Whether he signed up for iraq instead of giant monsters. Whether he carries a picture of his girlfriend with a note in his pocket incase he gets stomped on.

    OVERALL: They say the purpose of art is too reflect ourselves. I came out of this movie depressed, not because they all die, but because I didn’t care a jot. These people are horrible. The picture it paints of their lives, is depressingly bland and pointless.

    Notable lines:

    “Hold onto the people closest too you and fuck everyone else”

    “People will wanna see how it all went down”

    “OH MY GOD IS IT A TERRORIST ATTACK!?”

    No other lines in the film have any kind of human meaning in them whatsoever.

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  7. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    [quote comment="8047"]Does any one else think ‘six figure jobs’ is a troll, based on the fact that this website link leads to a job matching site….not to mention the fact that his name is six figure jobs???[/quote]

    LOL. I noticed that too, but his comment was actually relevant and on topic so I didn’t delete it. I think I can live with spammers who manually post somewhat thoughtful things like that. :mrgreen:

    @Mackenzie – best review evar! LOL I think you hit the nail on the head here. This is what I briefly alluded too in my post but you fleshed it out quite nicely – these people are just generic cardboard cutouts without much personality. A generic suit, a frat boy, a myspace girl and the mandatory generic black friend. You’ve got them pegged perfectly.

    Sigh… How come there are no more good movies coming out of Hollywood?

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  8. Mackenzie UNITED KINGDOM Safari Mac OS says:

    Cheers man. Good consolation for the actaul anger this movie made me feel at how Hollywood sees society in general.

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  9. Steve CANADA Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I think the point wasn’t to develop characters, or any of the usual, superfluous -to-the-plot but “important” developments. The gimmick is the hand-held camera, and an attempt to show everything with that in mind. What character development, other than what would be caught on a typical person’s digital camera, could there have been? I loved this movie for what it wasn’t…a typical monster movie with all the typical cliches (“ooohhh no…here comes the monster. Quick, start the car! Ooooh no…the car won’t start….”).

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  10. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    I actually saw someone describing it as “the multi-million dollar YouTube video”. The gist of that review was that Cloverfield is a great film if you would look at it as a professionally done online feature aimed to be distributed through Youtube like channels.

    If you look at it as a regular motion picture you find the obvious flaws because it was not designed that way.

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  11. Mackenzie UNITED KINGDOM Safari Mac OS says:

    I think some kind of pretense from the characters that they’re actaully shocked by the monster might help. Seriously, when stuff started exploding, it was like they were argueing about who said what or who spent too much on a new car.

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  12. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    hehe.. spam-word was fail. Like Cloverfield :lol:

    Did seem like they were all far too tied up in their own stupid lives, even whilst an entire city was very literally falling to pieces around them. I can’t even remember their names – names were unimportant, no-one was ever really referred to who was off-screen… just a lot of running and yelling and things going boom.

    Also note the fact that they had almost no reaction to their friend being dragged off by Hazmat guys shortly before she exploded. You’d expect them to at least want to know what happened to her, maybe get themselves checked out for similar infection/infestation. But no, everyone is too emotionally invested in saving that one guy’s girlfriend to stop for 5 seconds.

    Bringing up another thing – why was there never a single argument, debate or even the question raised of why they’re all off on the quest to save generic-man’s girl? The others have no real reason to do it, it’s clearly near-suicidal, when the shit really hit the fan why weren’t they telling him to get real and accept his loss and/or telling him that if he’s going on he’s going alone?

    Lets be honest, half the reason for watching the film was to find out what the shit the monster was, and we didn’t even get that reward – it was either some kind of sea monster thing, but then it had weird insect things running around in its wake, or it was an amorphous “big beasty thing” that doesn’t fit into any known category of life, but then we’d need a clear view of it to stand a chance in hell of knowing what it was.

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  13. Sirius TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    One of the things that drew me to this film was that the trailer focused on an apparently insignificant group trying to survive in the midst of an attack they do not truly understand. I am quite pleased to find out that this is in fact the general rule of the film.

    I personally enjoy movies that focus on the human element, and if this monster flick uses the attack as background for a human story rather than the main focus then I would be quite the happy camper. I hope to catch it soon – it opens on the 13th where I live.

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  14. srlinuxx UNITED STATES Konqueror Linux says:

    I actually saw someone describing it as “the multi-million dollar YouTube video”.

    lolol. Well, there ya go… that says it all. :D

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  15. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    [quote post="2285"]Also note the fact that they had almost no reaction to their friend being dragged off by Hazmat guys shortly before she exploded. You’d expect them to at least want to know what happened to her, maybe get themselves checked out for similar infection/infestation. But no, everyone is too emotionally invested in saving that one guy’s girlfriend to stop for 5 seconds.[/quote]

    I know, they were like: “H.U.D. your girlfriend just exploded!” And Hud was like: “Dude… Like… Lame, bro…”

    Oh, and here is the best picture review of the movie I found somewhere on LJ – click on the thumb to embiggen:

    I think this sums up the movie pretty well. lol

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  16. Matt` UNITED KINGDOM Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Just Stumbled across a picture of the monster model Hasbro are making

    http://www.slashfilm.com/2008/02/15/cloverfield-monster-toy-revealed/

    So that’s that question answered… its a big weird thingy

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