Giant Whale on Stilts – Cloverfield

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For a gimmick movie Cloverfield sets out to do what its trailer promises and it does it well. The first-person monster movie trick succeeds in an entertaining, mostly successful way, even if none of it is all that new. Just be ready for lots of blinking. My eyes had to refocus a lot. Bourne and Blair Witch ain’t got nothing on Hud’s shaky hands.

The documenter, named Hud – why that name? Perhaps HUD for the Heads-Up Display in first-person shooters or Hudson, the wisecracking Marine from Aliens – is, well, the wisecracking buddy of Rob, who’s off to Japan, or he would be, if it wasn’t for the giant monster that trashes his going-away party. Manhattan’s under attack so what’s a band of good-looking 20-somethings to do? Help save the girl who might have sex with Rob again, that’s what! And that’s just what Rob sets out to do, with Hud in tow and camera in hand, Rob’s brother Jason and two girls, they try to escape the rampaging beast and reach Rob’s would-be lover uptown. By walking through miles of subway tunnels and dozens and dozens of flights of stairs.

HOT NEW YORKERS

The main characters’ actions are really what require the most amount of disbelief suspension, their initial motivations are more of a MacGuffin than anything, just an excuse to get the movie rolling. And it rolls, tumbles, crashes and explodes (mostly) satisfactorily. The first-person shakiness really does amp the immediacy and places you right there. Obvious 9/11 news footage comparisons aside, producer/brainguy J.J. Abrams has a knack for transmitting audiences into his worlds – what would you do if you were on the island in LOST? – and it’s all very entertaining and swiftly and confidently executed. The movie builds up these schmucks, places them in mortal peril for a while, then stops in record time. It tells you right at the beginning where it’s going to end.

Is it the revolutionary event film it’s hyped up to be? In some ways, sure. This movie isn’t eye-rolling dumb shit like Godzilla or anything Roland Emmerich has touched. It’s pretty damn well made. There’s no soundtrack until the end and it does feel like found footage at times. It’s a solid flick with tinges of excitement and suspense, but that’s all I got. Tinges. I do like it more the more I think about it and it’s also the best film of 2008 so far but it just didn’t send me marching down the aisles trumpeting its genius. The worst thing about it is the talky character bits outnumber the scary monster bits. And the scary bits? Well, I wasn’t really scared by Cloverfield. It’s certainly not the next Alien although the monster’s final reveal is sort of similar.

Metaphor? Nah.

Besides Alien I can’t help but feel I’ve seen it all before. There’s a whole history of monster-attacking-metropolis movies like, y’know, Godzilla or the very recent The Host. There’s also a video game genre, I mentioned it before, maybe you heard of this too, called first-person-shooters. The best of them, Half-Life 2, did everything Cloverfield does years ago: giant monsters, treks through dark underground tunnels, military bombardments, even the monster concepts and accompanying sound effects are the same. Cloverfield does have the distinction of not focusing on patriotic presidents or war heroes or scientists. It uses real, dopey people so it’s got that going for it.

I wasn’t disappointed in Cloverfield. I got exactly what I expected. But why no mention of the Hanso Foundation in the credits. C’mon, J.J. you did it with M:I-III Mission: Impossible III, why not this?! Maybe the Hanso Foundation will be a Black Mesa rival in the eventual Half-Life movie. Directed by J.J. Abrams! Starring the new Spock! C’mon, cinema! Catch up, already!

Something familiar

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12 Responses to “Giant Whale on Stilts – Cloverfield”

  1. em Says:

    I haven’t seen it, but in your opinion could the film have worked having never seen the monster?

  2. John Mora Says:

    No.

  3. sirtmagus Says:

    Hmmmm. Good question! I can’t think of any movies that’s done that… that were good… Oh wait, Aliens may have made better use of the absence of the creature than even the first Alien. It barely showed the monsters yet through careful editing and various small glimpses it gave the impression that there were TONS of them. AND it used grainy first-person handicam footage when the Marines encountered them. Hm.

    To answer your Q: No, I think there’d have to be glimpses, or at least a little peek, of the monster, if just to satisfy curiosity. I think Cloverfield could’ve reined in some of its monster showy-offy-ness. IMO, the imagination fills in holes in the picture way better than anyone else could, so once you see the beast up-close it isn’t nearly as scary as you imagine it be.

    edit: lulz mora beat me to it {:3

  4. PC Says:

    Once again, bravo Mr. Torres. It’s been a pleasure.

  5. em Says:

    I suppose that was more of what I meant. Having minor glimpses, but never actually seeing the monster in all it’s glory.

    A lot of movies fail for me in that respect, as soon as target is revealed, it loses it’s magic.

    Just curious is all.

  6. rd Says:

    “This movie isn’t eye-rolling dumb shit like Godzilla”

    Obviously you don’t know Godzilla.

    Unless you mean Tristar’s Godzilla.

    Than I agree with you

  7. sirtmagus Says:

    I am specifically targeting the American version of Godzilla, which Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin did. They’re the guys who did ID4, Day After Tomorrow and The Patriot. They are bad guys.

    Did anyone else get the trailer for their new movie, 500 B.C. or whatever, in front of Cloverfield? My god. ALL the previews were awful. Awful, awful, awful. Except for J.J.’s Star Trek teaser. PLEASE BE GOOD.

    The only Japanese Godzilla I saw was the first one. It was … okaaaay. For such an obvious nuclear bomb metaphor I guess it could’ve been way worse.

  8. Marc M Says:

    They played the Hellboy 2 one before mine. That was about all that I can remember.

  9. John Mora Says:

    Godzilla: Final Wars can suck my balls.

  10. rd Says:

    *hugs Magus*

    *slaps Mora*

    10k BC looked pretty bad.

    It’s horrible though that Star Trek is coming SO… FAR… AWAY… :(

    I liked the Iron Man preview, if only because I hadn’t seen it before and they were playing “Iron Man” in the background. If it doesn’t make it into the movie I would be shocked.

  11. Year in Review - 2008: It… It… It… Had Its Moments « Grump Factory Says:

    […] 8. Cloverfield […]

  12. 2008 Round-Up Review - Kept You Waiting, Huh « Grump Factory Says:

    […] Cloverfield – Though I whale on it a bit in my original review, Cloverfield really holds up on repeated […]

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