CLOVERFIELD

I managed to keep myself at a good distance from all of the hype surrounding the J.J. Abrams produced, Cloverfield. The film had created some sort of masterful advertising, gaining talk and anticipation for well over half a year before it even graced audience’s eyes and ears, this due to the nice placement of its teaser trailer – in front of the zillions who went to see Transformers. Preceeding Michael Bay’s disaster of a blockbuster was a brilliant move by Abrams and Paramount, and the Cloverfield teaser became the best part of my time at Transformers. That trailer was the one and only time I let myself into the hype of this film, because it had sparked my interest enough to leave any kind of knowledge about premise alone and just go see it when it came out. I didn’t know if it would be effective or a misfire, a retread or innovator, which was the way to go into it. I have a good feeling that the majority of people that see Cloverfield will go to one extreme or the other. There will be those who absolutely hate it on all accounts, then others who will cherish every aspect of it. After viewing this film once (I say that because I know there will be multiple viewings down the road) I wouldn’t put myself in either of those fields. I was certainly absorbed throughout most of the film and respected its mission to combine genres and provide America with a legitimate modern monster movie, but there’s no question that there are things that halted the movie from jumping into the realm of extremely good.

As the Paramount logo fades in and slowly crawls onto the screen, it is accompanied by building rumblings in the background, something that can only be truly experienced effectively in a movie theater, and it sets our curiosities in motion from the top. As the production logos end, so do the rumblings, and we’re left in silence and a government-notified preface, so we know that the footage we are about to see can only end up in a devastating manner and anyone on it left almost certain inevitable dust. The film is told entirely from the point of view of the main character’s digital camcorder, which is manned for 95% of the film by his best friend, in hopes of gathering final goodbyes to him from all of the people at his sendoff party before he moves to Japan, due to a promotion. The film is set in, where else, New York City, which is the always good and obvious first choice for a disaster flick. Abrams brought on a writer (Drew Goddard) and director (Matt Reeves) that he had worked with in current and past television projects to construct a surprisingly well though out plan for the movie. One of the things that the movie does very well is dedicating over an entire first third of its running time to letting us get to know the main characters, to begin to care about their lives before they reach the point of sudden jeopardy. Michael Stahl-David is very convincing as Rob Hawkins, the lead character who we follow from sendoff party to a journey through a destructed Manhattan in search of Beth, a close friend that he regreted never expressing his true feelings of love for.

The build-up in the first portion of this movie is tremendously done, with Rob’s best friend, Hud documenting the final words until he becomes distracted by a girl Marlena, who he is infatuated with. Hud is a completely dumbfounded character, one who consistently tries too hard to fit in and becomes quite annoying in serious situations that do not call for comic relief, and although I was angry with some of the things he does at times, I didn’t hold it against the film itself, for there are people that would really act and say things just like he does in real life. Along with two other friends, another couple, we are thrust into a monstrous attack on the city following these six individuals. By this point it is very late and it is extremely dark, which helps the film’s effects never seem less than realistic. The shadowy tones of the city and tunnels and alleys add to the shock, and at times it works to frightening levels. I pondered this film quite a bit after seeing it and found that I enjoyed pretty much every aspect of it, yet I just couldn’t quite mark it as a great film. I think this is due to the fact that although the movie is certainly similar to a fantasy (considering it focuses on a Godzilla-like attack) it also asks to be taken seriously and with importance (considering it is told through camcorder footage that echoes real-life). This is not necessarily a bad thing, but there are certain parts in Cloverfield that are extremely far-fetched and hard to imagine actually happening, most importantly the amount of battery life on the camcorder, plus the fact that it even survives the entire destruction unscathed. I tried to throw out all logic, but being stuck between a mixture of both fantasy and realism kept me pining for some more to believe in as the film drew to a close. Neverthless, this is a supreme piece of entertainment that I enjoyed immensely.

Rating: B

PG-13
1 hour, 24 minutes
Paramount Pictures

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6 Responses to “CLOVERFIELD”

  1. Robert Says:

    Great review!
    I like to think that Hud grabbed extra camcorder batteries when they were in the electronics store.
    Also, the film had a run-time of only 74 minutes, which is viable for a camcorder, right?
    Regardless, it was a real trip to watch, & I’m glad you enjoyed the film!

  2. Ferguson Says:

    I figured that that would have been a good opportunity to show Hud stocking up on some batteries for the camcorder Although they didn’t show him physically doing that, it is right to assume he did.

    About the runtime of the actual tape in the camcorder…the film takes place within a near 12 hour time frame, so trying to convince one’s self that it all happened on one dv tape is entirely impossible in my opinion.

    The bottom line is, there’s no doubt that this film delivers on what it was supposed to, and that’s all we can really ask for, isn’t it?

  3. Rob Rockitt Says:

    Nice Review. I have been dying to go see this one. I have stayed away from most Cloverfield related stuff on the web, as I want to be surprised by this one, when I finally make it to the theater (hopefully next weekend).

    Rob Rockitt
    Hard Rock Hideout
    http://www.hardrockhideout.com

  4. Ferguson Says:

    It’s definitely the right thing to do – going into this movie without any knowledge of the premise, that is. Thanks for reading!

  5. The MovieBuff Says:

    Cloverfield is NOT only about the movie. The producers have created a whole viral marketing campaign around it. Based on research from various other websites, I have posted a summary in my blog which will try to explain the Cloverfield story in more detail:

    http://the-moviebuff.blogspot.com/2008/01/secrets-of-cloverfield-revealed.html

  6. Ferguson Says:

    Hmmm, this is very intriguing stuff you’ve managed to dig up. I’m going to have to keep all of it in mind when I make an encore viewing in the near future.

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