I saw it! It’s alive! It’s Huge! I just got home from a screening of Cloverfield, the JJ Produced monster film which has hogged the online hype since July. I don’t have the time to do an extensive review of this movie, as I need to catch a plane to Park City for the Sundance Film Festival in just seven hours. But here is my first take.
The potential problem with a movie like Cloverfield is that the hype can wear thin reallt fast, especially when you’re subject them to near-pointless online viral storylines (what was the point of Jamie’s videos anyways?). But things ramped up these last few weeks, and I feel like I’ve seen more of this movie online than I ever wanted to beforehand. It’s a difficult balance to keep the hype going without giving away too much. And sure, they didn’t show the monster, but seeing too much beforehand was my second biggest concern going into the film. Maybe I had already seen all the cool sequences from the film in the advertising?
Friends, I am here to tell you that there is nothing to be concerned about. There is a lot in this movie that was not shown in the marketing. There is more monster than I originally believed there would be. And yes, you do get to see him very very very close-up. He’s unlike any movie monster I’ve ever seen before. A very cool and unique design, and I think you’ll be pleased. The sound design is incredible, I seriously wouldn’t be shocked if this got nominated for some sound related awards, possibly an Oscar (yes, seriously).
My biggest concern going into the film was about the characters. Would I really care about Rob and Beth and all the characters briefly shown running around in the trailer?
Surprisingly, I was wrong again. The characters are very relatable, even though you don’t get too much background information on any of them. The first 20 or so minutes are monster free. It’s all background, getting to know some of the characters, and it’s all a slow build for the monster’s first reveal. Because when the shit hits the fan, you feel like you’re stuck in the middle of this horrific situations with a group of new friends. Of course, the story follows Rob, a young many who has just gotten a job in Japan. His goodbye party is interrupted by the monstrous scream we’ve all seen a billion and a half times in the teaser trailer. While everyone is trying to get out of New York City, Rob is trying to reconnect with Beth, who is trapped in midtown. But the true shining star in this film is a guy named HUD, who appears on camera just a few times. But you will get to know him very well. HUD is the man behind the video camera, documenting the whole thing as it goes down. His running commentary is hilarious, and you will quickly grow to love him. HUD is one of the reasons that Cloverfield works so well. He’s the funny best friend comic relief character that makes most romantic comedies bearable. But instead of being employed to a few funny appearances, the love-able comic relief character is front and center. He is more you than Rob, and maybe it’s better that way. But its so interesting to see a story from the point of view of this type of character. Refreshing even.
Does the handheld format get annoying? Surprisingly, no. Blair Witch used the first person idea as a gimmick. Cloverfield takes the idea, and uses it to tell a story. I really don’t want to give-away any spoilers, even though enough of the film is already online for you to piece together.
Cloverfield is not shakespeare. It’s not a masterpiece. It has flaws (mostly having to do with little conveniences throughout the story (The “they just happen to be there sort of stuff, or the that guy would never let them do THAT sort of stuff. You’ll see what I mean), but it isn’t anything that takes away from the big picture.
Cloverfield is a fun movie. Plain and simple. It’s sit back, relax and go. It’s a roller coaster ride. JJ Abrams wanted to make an American monster movie, and he has done just that. Cloverfield is not a Godzilla rip-off, it’s the reinvention of the monster film. This is the story about characters trapped in a monster film. They aren’t the characters that would be in the big Hollywood blockbuster version, or even an D-level take by The Asylum or Troma. These characters are the people running away from Godzilla. They have no urge to defeat the monster, they just want to get away and reconnect with their loved ones. This is a human story which just happens to take place during this gigantic moment of fear.
/Film Rating: 8 out of 10