Before you can
tackle the question of whether or not Cloverfield
is worth your time, you have to tackle the issue of motion-sickness.
At the screening Fanboy Planet attended, we confirmed that
four audience members had to leave to vomit, and twenty
others had to step out for fresh air.
So if your interest
is high in this film, take your Dramamine. It's not that
Cloverfield breaks new ground in on-screen gore;
it is, after all, surprisingly rated PG-13. Director Matt
Reeves commits hard to the film's conceit of being one hapless
bystander's recording of "the Cloverfield Incident," and
the resultant shaky hand-held camerawork can often get too
much. Logically enough, cameraman Hud (T. J. Miller) spends
a lot of time running and panicking, swinging the camera
around trying to figure out what's going on and what's worth
weakness of attempting this cinema verite comes from
a need to believably establish characters. As a result,
Drew Goddard's script requires that we watch a lot of boring
party footage, interspersed with the videotape's original
subject, one perfect day between nascent lovers Rob (Michael
Stahl-David) and Beth (Odette Yustman). Those cross-cuts
are meant to lend poignancy to the proceedings, but the
perfect dramatic timing of them stretch the limits of credibility.
it's occasionally difficult to swallow the conceit, especially
as some characters behave in a manner obviously done for
a plot's sake, not for what would actually happen. To some
extent, this includes the disturbingly unrecognizable monster,
who isn't so much wreaking havoc on Manhattan as seeming
to pace a cage of about twenty blocks, the better to always
be where the five main characters happen to be trying to
effectively scares the living crap out of us with the fear
of the unknown, and how helpless people are in the face
of such superior force. It's no original or sharply keen
observation to note that in the wake of 9/11, we understand
the effects of devastation much more sharply, and Cloverfield
reflects this well. The slow yet devastating shock waves
of dust and rubble wash over characters. It's hard to even
realize the minutiae of destruction, but Reeves and his
crew capture it well.
As for the helplessness,
that, too, works to fill the audience with dread. It isn't
just a huge creature lumbering around; wherever it's from,
it also has parasites that drop down and realize the streets
of Manhattan are a veritable smorgasbord. In one absolutely
chilling scene, we catch a glimpse of the consequences of
surviving their attack, though Hud and crew never
get an explanation of what exactly happened.
And that may
be the most frustrating element of Cloverfield, the
very thing that makes its gimmick sound so cool. We'll never
know just what exactly the hell is going on. Sure, in real
life, that's the way things work, and it drives people to
conspiracy theories and the like. For a monster movie, however,
no matter how cool, it's a little frustrating to have an
incredible creature reduced to nothing more than a Macguffin.
clearly has a larger narrative at work. From the opening
titles, we know that the military supposedly recovered this
camera, a la The Blair Witch Project. In that conceit,
we also have the implication of huge devastation after the
film ends. But if I'm going to risk the contents of my stomach
at a movie, I want something more than a cool gimmick -
I want a cool story.
the DVD will have another section of documentary that covers
it, but for now, it's annoying and vaguely unsatisfying
to have to wait with beating heart and sour breath.