Cloverfield


In January of 2008, audiences were filled with anticipation about a newly released film that most knew essentially nothing about, other than the fact that something or someone is rampaging across New York City in the new thriller from producer J.J. Abrams (“Mission: Impossible 3”) called “Cloverfield”. The high expectations surrounding this unknown film had been fed for quite some time via successful internet marketing campaigns that teased audiences about what may be coming soon to a theater near them. The film’s release didn’t disappoint, as soon-to-be fans arrived in droves to see what this mystery film was all about, delivering the 2008 box office year an incredible kick-start. Upon release of the film, word quickly spread that who or what was terrorizing New York was actually a gigantic monster and this film was being heralded as one of the most unique monster movies ever made. Now, “Cloverfield” has finally arrived on DVD and Blu-Ray, and after viewing the film, I find myself with a decidedly mixed feeling towards it.

“Cloverfield” focuses on a group of friends gathered together to say good-bye to one of their own as he prepares to leave for Japan to take on a new executive position at a successful company. However, their celebration is cut drastically short as explosions rock the city. Filled with fear, and an undeniable curiosity regarding what could have caused the explosions the friends head outside to see what they can discover. Unfortunately for them, and most New Yorkers, what they find is nothing short of the seemingly impossible, as a giant monster, as tall as the tallest skyscrapers, is rampaging through the city destroying everything in sight. Now, these friends are on the run for their lives as they try to find any place that is safe from the creature’s wrath, all the while trying to find answers as to what the monster is and where it came from; however, no one, not even the military that is desperately trying to stop it, seems to have any clue whatsoever.

Director Matt Reeves (TV’s “Lost”) chose a rather unique approach to ratcheting up the suspense-filled story of “Cloverfield” by opting for a significantly limited field of vision via the handheld camera that is used as the only visual source for the entire movie. The last time, that I can recall, this technique was done successfully was with the 1999 surprise horror hit, “The Blair Witch Project”, so it was surprising to me that Reeves would opt for this same approach of using only one camera to tell the entire story. Many directors have chosen the handheld camera as their camera of choice, although usually utilizing more than one camera; a recent example would be director Paul Greengrass’ chilling portrayal of the sad events of September 11th in the film “United 93”. Whatever the reasons, the decision worked; even giving a person the feeling of being right there with the characters in certain scenes. In the end, audiences simply couldn’t get enough of this movie, although the free-moving camera caused some audience members moments of discomfort due to motion-sickness, but even those instances would prove inconsequential in this film’s massive success at the box office.

The story for “Cloverfield” was written by Drew Goddard, another of J.J. Abrams’ crew on the hit TV show “Lost”, apparently Abrams wanted to keep things in house for this movie, a decision that may have helped keep the details of the film surprisingly quiet all the way up to the film’s release to theaters. Goddard crafted a very suspenseful monster movie that managed to work even without showing the monster in full view until the film’s closing moments. By relying on the reactions of his characters, and the devastation being done to the surrounding environments, Drew Goddard along with his director’s choice for only using one camera managed to keep tensions high and interest piqued from start to finish throughout the incredibly fast-moving, but disappointingly short running time. This is where part of my mixed feelings towards this movie stems from, an average running time for a movie is in the range of 90 minutes to two hours; however, “Cloverfield” clocks in at 1 hour and 13 minutes of actual screen time devoted to story (which I felt ripped off by), with an additional 11 minutes of credits (no joke) that scrawl painfully slow across the screen to bring the overall run time to 1 hour 24 minutes, although considering that to be the official run time seems like cheating to me. Not to mention the abrupt ending to the film left me feeling like the movie was incomplete, which was of course a calculated move on the filmmaker’s part to attempt to guarantee a sequel would be necessary to this movie, even though the box office receipts turned out to be high enough that a sequel became a no-brainer early on.

Each member of the primary cast of “Cloverfield” now has the good fortune of having such a massive blockbuster on their résumé as their first official work in movies. Not bad for a bunch of newcomers, and for the most part each member deserves any good fortune that comes their way from this film, because most of them were surprisingly very good actors for not having much, if any, prior experience in film acting. The only truly disappointing member of the cast was the friend serving as the cameraman, and this was mostly because he was just so annoying with almost every line of dialogue he had throughout the movie, and sadly he was speaking in almost every scene because he was the character holding the camera for the duration. If the cameraman hadn’t been such an annoying character, making surprisingly ridiculous comments that never helped matters in the desperate situation these friends have found themselves in, perhaps I would have enjoyed “Cloverfield” more definitively, instead of being so mixed on my thoughts of it.

“Cloverfield” is undoubtedly an entertaining monster film, and I would have to agree with the sentiment that it could have possibly been one of the best ever made; however, an extremely short running time along with too abrupt an ending, and an annoying cameraman/supporting character leaves me feeling somewhat cheated and unsatisfied by the experience.

“Cloverfield” is rated PG-13 for violence and language.

3 thoughts on “Cloverfield”

  1. The review itself was good with a good description of the film and a nice intro; however I hated this movie and when it ended I looked over at my friend and said was that as bad as I think it was, he shock his head agreeing with me. The plot is Godzilla with the irony of the “main character” getting ready to go to Japan. In terms of the length of the film, I’m not sure how much longer you could make it unless if they decided to explain thing you can only have so much footage of people running before you run out, but again it was a good review.

  2. This is the best monster movie ever no question, the monster is just so complex, “Clover” is an amazing monster, but does anybody else feel that clover was going after the main guys? In the end before the credits explains how the monster got there, lover the acting, the camera work, the script, everything, Matt Reeves did an incredible job on this film. The cast is a bunch of new comers, but they do a fantastic job also, 5 out of 5 stars.

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