‘Cloverfield’ Review

(Cross-posted over at Misfits of Sci-Fi.)

Ladies and gents, I trust you’ve seen Cloverfield by now. I was there at the first showing I could get to after work on Friday. I’ve spent the weekend thinking about what I saw, and I jotted down a few thoughts for your consumption. (Note: I don’t recap the movie below, but there are a few spoilers. Please tread wearily.)

(I mean it! Don’t yell at me if you read something you don’t want to read! There are at least eleven other things on the Internet you can read right now. Actually, maybe there are more than eleven, but I lost count after that number. Trust me, there’s plenty of things to do in the meantime. See the film, then come back and read the rest. You’ll thank me.)

It wasn’t a Lost movie, which I’d kinda sorta known for a while, but it was still slightly disappointing to learn. If it truly had been a Lost tie-in, we would have learned about it in the last six weeks or so, and the more you got into the alternative-reality game, the more you realized my original hypothesis was well off. Oh well. My theories are a combination of well-thought out possibilities coupled with girlish fanfic. I’m bound to be wrong on most occasions.

080118-cloverfield-hmed-12phmedium.jpgAs far as the ARG: turns out you needed to know nothing about the ARG in order to enjoy the film. It was a complete red herring that, at best, offered a possible explanation as to where the monster might have originated. It definitely in no way was a necessary component towards understanding the film, because even by the end, our protagonists have absolutely no idea what has happened to them or New York City. The “why” simply isn’t important as far as Cloverfield is concerned. Depending on your perspective, that was an utter strength or utter failing in terms of storytelling.

That being said, I did wonder why the monster dripped mini-monsters. The only thing I can think of was the following: the mega- and mini-monsters lived in a state of commensalism, or a mutually beneficial relationship, for thousands of years. Or, the mini-monsters could have been parasitic, barnacle-like beasts. In either case, once on land, these mini-monsters had a harder time staying attached to the large monster, and boom, explode-y humans galore.

I have to say, the mini-monsters scared me infinitely more than the mega-monster. Not that I wasn’t scared of the beast, but I have a thing that goes creepy crawly in the night. I knew, knew, knew they were in the subway tunnels, and could barely take the tension. By the time they attacked, I’m pretty sure I’d jumped into my wife’s lap. Far from one of my finer moments.

For those of you who hate Hud: man…not sure what to say. A lot of people have hated the fact that he makes jokes at inappropriate times, as if this somehow indicates a lack of compassion for those who have died. In my view, Hud uses jokes in the same way the titular heroine of Juno uses sarcasm: as a defense mechanism. The situations these two find themselves in, while as wildly different as can be, both terrify them beyond the capacity for rational thought. As such, both try to use humor and sarcasm as a way to maintain their sanity. Saying either are merely glib is missing the point entirely.

Speaking of Hud, the shaky-cam stuff really didn’t bother me in the least. A few times, I felt like I didn’t know quite what was going on, but I never felt dizzy or sick. The wife and I sat maybe halfway back in the theatre. She was a bit queasy at times, but I made it through just fine. What was most impressive was the fact that, at times, this video camera caught things that you had literally never seen before. And I’m not talking about the visual imagination of what was presented, but in the construction and composition of the shots. To walk out a window onto the top of a falling building atop a ravaged New York City absolutely took my breath away, and enabled the “you are there” nature of the film’s conceit to hit home the stakes, location, and danger much more effectively than a big-budget picture could have done.

0a730fd1-6721-41bb-b242-8597273f750chmedium.jpgAs for the acting as a whole: I wasn’t there for the acting. It neither helped nor hurt the movie. In some ways, their blandness aided the film, and I’m neither trying to overly defend Bad Robot nor stomp on the acting ability of those onscreen. But if I could “see” them performing a craft, the movie might have failed in my eyes. Maybe they could have hired better no-name actors. But in casting people we don’t know, they ensured that absolutely no one was safe from harm’s way. (Boy, isn’t THAT the truth.)

I love how almost no one can agree on what the monster looked liked. No one can get a grip on its physiology, anatomy, limb structure…I mean, it’s fantastically all over the place. Maybe we should just call the mega-monster “Rorschach” and be done with it. I saw tentacles, I saw lizard-like breathing sacs, I saw praying mantis-like front appendages, and in one shot, I swear it had Rosanne Barr’s nose. That was weird.

Final verdict? A fantastically fun movie that delivered what it promised: a handheld view of the apocalypse. If you wanted scares, you got ‘em. If you wanted backstory, you had an ARG. If you wanted much more than that, well, you might have walked away a bit disappointed. The publicity for the movie definitely helped: let’s see what happens to its box-office after everyone has a chance to share their thoughts come Tuesday.

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