Movie Review: Cloverfield

Cloverfield Theatrical PosterPossibly the best way to start this review is to say: go see this movie. Cloverfield is produced by J.J. Abrams of Lost and Alias fame, and also the director of the upcoming new Star Trek movie. The inspiration for Cloverfield is that America has never really had an equivalent to a Godzilla-style story; Abrams supposedly came up with the idea while shopping with his son in Japan. Abrams is credited saying:

“…we need our own monster, and not King Kong, King Kong’s adorable. I wanted something that was just insane and intense.”

The movie is filmed as if through a hand-held camera that has been recovered in New York city, and focuses on a small group of friends and the events that unfold around them. Many people may avoid the movie assuming it will be too scary based upon the trailer, but rest assured it is light on the scary and intensely high on action, suspense, and drama. The story is incredibly simple and stays grounded firmly in reality as far as any monster movie could, while all of the acting is spectacular and you really become attached to the characters.

One of our big concerns was that the camera would be too shaky trying to emulate a hand-held kind of style, much like the Bourne Supremacy which had us feeling sick after walking out of the theater, so we decided to sit further back in the theater and this really seemed to help. A few minutes in we didn’t even notice the camera anymore except for the few times it was emphasized by the camera-man falling down or being knocked over. One of the funniest aspects to the way the movie is filmed is that the character holding the camera is named Hud (short for Hudson), a nice joke that only a small percentage of people who see the movie will really get as it references the heads-up display (HUD) that you see in first-person videogames.

Cloverfield displays an excellent balance between sci-fi and disaster movie, while the entire beginning to the movie focuses on the characters and their relationships it ends before you start feeling like it has gone on too long, and everything from the beginning serves to add to later events. Once the action has started things carry on at a frantic but gradual pace, and much like I Am Legend the movie refuses to show anything which doesn’t belong and needlessly make the movie longer than an hour and half.

The best way to see this movie is to not go in expecting a huge moral story, or any award winning dialogue, but to go in ready to enjoy a thrilling piece of cinema that pulls you into a disaster zone.

Comments

  1. Totally agree. I love the fact that, unlike many films that try to experiment or redefine genres, this movie does not cram a few dozen borrowed elements and sell it as something new. It’s devoted to one concept: being a first-person disaster story. And it does that very, very well.

    There are a lot of parts that are pretty illogical, and really demand the audience’s suspension of disbelief (I wish I could do spoiler tags and detail ‘em) and yet, they add to the experience of being a nerve-wracking adventure.

    I was really happy with this movie. With the box office success its enjoying, I’d love to hear word of an upcoming sequel/parallel story in the same vein. (Other Manhattans making their own escapes? Documentation from a doctor who treats victims and also performs autopsies on the lil’ Zerglings? Or maybe a stitched-together narrative of news reports, government press conferences, etc. about what happened after the movie? The possibilities are endless.)

  2. This movie has zerglings? Why didn’t you say so in the first place!

  3. everything is better with zerglings

  4. I didn’t see the zerglings so much as miniaturized starship trooper bugs, thanks to my lack of starcraft knowledge…

    Awesome movie, but a lot of 13-year olds in my theater apparently disliked it…I didn’t bother shouting my opinion, but sometimes I think certain movies should be R just so I don’t have to deal with them…

    There definitely needs to be some kind of sequel…I want that thing to have a name…

  5. joshx0rfz says:

    Zerglings would make an excellent breakfast cereal.

  6. The ending felt kind of cheap. First, the thing probably wasn’t tall enough to get the helicopter, then, you don’t survive a helicopter crash, but hey, its not as bad as the hot chick in Deep Blue Sea getting eaten right at the end, for no nessecary reason.

  7. TheMainEvent says:

    NICE SPOILER TAG ASSHOLE!

  8. glad I didnt actually read the response, just read Zerglings and stopped reading!

    I guess whats funny to me is he talks about how we need our own monster and how King Kong is to lovable… but he got the idea while in Japan, and its basicly Godzilla…. How is that “Ours”?

    I guess in retrospect we cant do a giant beast ravaging a city and not relate it to Godz-rilla.

    My only question then is… So where Mothra when you need her?!

  9. Not Godzilla…Godzilla gets temporarily defeated, but for all we know…humans evacuated the planet and came back 100s of years later when the monster left, only to discover a 90-minute DV tape…

    I guess we just need to give this monster a name before we can stop comparing it to Godzilla ALL the time…I’m going to classify him as a land kraken…though I’m not sure of a name suitable for such a thing other than Cthulhu…

  10. I thought the beginning of the movie (indirectly) noted that the monster was codenamed Cloverfield? Or maybe the whole Manhattan incident was just known as Cloverfield.

    – SPOILERS –
    @Patrick: Since you brought it up, yeah – the last 10 or so minutes from the helicopter scene on were pretty ridiculous. Helicopter crash? Everybody but the trained military men survive with no visible injuries? Beth, in the state that she’s in, is the first to wake up? And Hud walks ten feet and yet doesn’t notice a mile-long monster in the vicinity? As an ending, it was climactic and conclusive, but it felt reaaally half-assed after everything that came before it.
    – END SPOILERS –

  11. Nah…Cloverfield is the name of the area formerly known as central park…best we can do is call that thing the Cloverfield Monster…

  12. Horrificus says:

    The creature is indeed a Kraken. It even has 8 limbs, although it is hard to see them all at any one time. At the end, as Hud checks it out from underneath, and we see the length of it, we see the 2 tentacles that we previously thought were a tail. We see 2 large hind legs.
    Moving up to the torso, we see 2 small rubbery limbs hanging down around it’s waist.
    The, of course, we see the enormous front forelimbs.
    Then, we have the same type of pulsating breathing apparatus that you would find on an octopus. Only, we see these things pulsing and breathing on the sides of it’s head.
    8 Limbs.

    Introducing “Typhon”.

  13. I actually disagree with Horrificus, there was no point in the entire movie that I thought “kraken”. Just because the monster might have had 8 limbs, that’s where the similarities pretty much end. Plus the whole thing is about it coming to shore and being on land / in the city, not very kraken like behavior at all.

  14. Horrificus says:

    I have seen MANY different artist’s create their versions of the monstrous Kraken.

    As a matter of fact, the 8 limbs and the “breathers” is just a plus.
    The Kraken was not always described as an octopi or squid-like creature.

    In the earliest descriptions, the creatures were more crab- like than octopus-like, and generally possessed traits that are associated with large whales rather than with giant squid.

    What it always came down to, though, was a gigantic sea creature that, many times, was described as having many limbs.

    Rent Clash of the Titans, or google it, and you will see an example of what I am talking about.

  15. Horrificus: You’ve got me there, I suppose my feeling is that when I saw the Cloverfield monster it didn’t particularly speak to me as a monster from the depths of the ocean (I know it came from there though). I expect dark, slimy, or scaly skin and at least some kind of fins or such. That’s not to say I’m criticizing how the monster looked because I loved it, but at no point did I think of pretty much any other monster save for Zerglings when we saw the parasites.

  16. Horrificus says:

    You are totally right Bartoneus. Although it is a very cool, and original monster concept, it seems totally unsuited for water.
    I didn’t even see any webbing, or anything.
    It looked more like a climber, or possibly a burrower.