Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cloverfield: A Review

First off I want to get this out there right away. This is, in fact, an actual review for the movie "Cloverfield." There are probably a dozen or more fake reviews for this movie circulating about the web, this is not one of those. At 8pm EST at Michigan State University in the basement lecture hall B108 of Wells a prescreening was given for students and the public of MSU and East Lansing. Those are my credentials, look around and see what you can find. The facebook event is here.

Also I want to get out of the way right now the fact that, yes, this review contains spoilers. The big ones will be reserved for the end of the review, so with that warning in mind


Ok. Now that we've got all that preamble crap out of the way, lets get to this freakin movie review....

It should be understood that Cloverfield IS NOT A MONSTER MOVIE. Well... It is a monster movie, but not in the traditional sense. It's a love story. It's a story about obsession. About one man's obsession with this girl, and about how after he blew it a monster attacks the city. This gives him that one more chance to go and save her. That's the movie in a nutshell. That's what it's about. The monster is a vehicle for this one more chance. The misconception that many people take into this movie is that it's a strict traditional monster movie. This isn't Godzilla. What it is is a damn good question.

In a traditional review people want to know things about the cinematography, the acting, the soundtrack, the special effects. It's hard to fathom how to review a movie like this because it's not about that. The special effects are great. Not the most top notch, but with the pacing and emotion it's hard to not get swept up in the terrifying fervor.

There was a backlash to Cloverfield not that long ago. A concern about it exploiting the emotions of 9-11 for commercial gain. To that effect I ask about the American Flag T-shirts, United 93, World Trade Center, anything having to do with terrorism, or patriotism, or any of the round the clock news coverage. Does the movie tap into fears of 9-11? Yes. Hell yes. To watch that movie and having seen the replayed video footage when the towers went down is a terrifying thing. What it does is channel that nervous fear that most everything else surrounding 9-11 has missed. The Terror of terrorism, that fear of the unknown. The movie does this very well.

This goes on to fill in the acting. Don't look for Oscar-worthy performances. It's not about that. There's no great overt drama. No enthralling characters, because the characters on the screen are me and you. This is how you'd react. Screaming, running, falling. My friend complained about the overacting, especially towards the beginning. I beg to differ. How do you act when someone turns the video camera on you? You overact to try and compensate for this fear of clumsiness. That's what you see. Real people dealing with surreal problems.

Cloverfield has done something special. It's really truly the first of its kind. A big budget monster flick told in an intimate indie sort of manner. The images are haunting. The implications terrifying. AND YES! You see the monster in all it's glory. Now for spoilers


Keep in mind the way I started this review. This is not a monster movie. This is not Godzilla. There are no Matt Brodericks to tell you how it came to be, or how to beat it. There are no Jeff Goldblums to tell you to put a virus in the mothership. JJ Abrams has managed to make a movie that gives you no answers. What is it? A monster. Where'd it come from? Hell if I know. Do we win? Considering the implications of them finding the tape in the rubble of former Manhattan, yes, I'd say so, but it's not certain. How do you stop? Dunno.

This is not a movie about giving you answers. Because the movie isn't about the monster. The movie is about Beth and Rob, and about Rob finding Beth. And that is where it gets interesting. When the final scenes of the movie are approaching there is this almost sad dawning realization that Rob was so focused and so obsessed with getting to Beth that he never bothered to plan his way out. And Rob (and Beth) is after all, just a human. Just a regular guy, and that sad realization along with how the tape was found, prepares you for a bittersweet conclusion. Kick me for saying it, but life is rarely satisfying, and we aren't invincible. They die. It's sad. It really is. But it's so high octane that it takes you a while to digest just how sad it is.

The monster is fucked up. REALLY MESSED UP. A sketch of an artists conception can be found here. And while it is not exact, it's pretty close. It's theory on the little crab things are spot on. While the monster is ravaging our city, it's far too busy to focus on one person. Instead we have to do one on one battles with it's lice. And they kick our ass. They also make people explode.

Many will find this unsatisfying. The movie, that is. They'll complain about the lack of answers, and the abrupt ending. About how everyone dies. But let's face reality here, people. Against sheer indifference and indiscriminate destruction, who really stands a chance? Godzilla had a brain with some levels of higher functions (both the original and the Americanized update). The aliens in Independence Day had strategy. This monster is a beast with no higher brain function beyond eat and survive. And we piss it off. Rob and Beth had no hope. It's sad, but at least their story lived on.

Go forth and Enjoy


Kello January 11, 2008 at 11:34 PM  

This was the exact type of review I've been waiting for. I was wondering if there would be an actual monster, or it was all some metaphor for the Bush administration (like every other Hollywood movie). Now I don't have to go see this, so thanks!

Clayton January 20, 2008 at 8:30 PM  

well that "artist sketch" is not even close to what the monster looks like, that is some whale looking thing and the monster looks more like somtehing from doom but on a huge ginourmous scale. Although the monster does have little parasite buggers that make people explode.

Anonymous February 16, 2008 at 5:21 PM  

i think you're revieuw is really well put together. I want specially adressed that this cinematography -although used before; blair witch project, irreversible- together with special effects has created an entire new genre; hyper-realism..
I think if you mix war of the moral and emotional side of war of the worlds, the camera work of the blair witch and the fear of a godzilla; this is what you get.
oja, and how unsatisfying it may be to some people, at the final shot, you've have to keep track 2 the see in the background.a big answer is give there!

(smurk143 from the netherlands)