|By Zach Patterson||Thursday, 31 Jan 2008|
APPARENTLY THERE ARE SPOILERS HERE SO DON’T READ MY REVIEW IF YOU WANT PARTS OF THE PLOT SPOILED. Anyway, there’s something to be said for trying something different, and I guess it’s pretty easy to be caught in a gimmick or completely be put off by it. In Cloverfield’s case, the movie’s gimmick is similar to Blair Witch Project, in that it is all from the perspective of a guy with a handy cam. The movie’s ads also make it seem like there is some huge secret to the monster in the movie, but there’s really no horrible secret that you learn about it, and when they do show the creature, it’s not like there was that great of a reason to hide it, other than to sell more movie tickets over the suspense. Anyway, I went with a group of Good-Evil people to see this, and I ended up being the only one who liked it. I can understand why some didn’t like it, but I’ll let them explain themselves in the comments if they want.
I’m going to make this pretty simple. I thought the movie did a decent job with keeping the handy cam effect and mixing it with “HOLYFUCKDIDTHATJUSTHAPPEN” chaos in the streets in New York. Parts of the movie drag a little bit (especially the beginning introducing the characters and the party) but it’s necessary to establish who the characters are and make the movie feel like this was just a normal night when suddenly shit hits the fan. I can’t say I liked the characters all that much, and perhaps that was part of my issue (and others) with the movie. They are just kinda normal people, but with that comes really forgettable dialogue (i.e. lots of yelling and OHMYGODs). Additionally, while they tried to make the characters real, the believability of their motives is a little questionable. Seriously, a gigantic fucking monster is attacking New York, and logic says you get the hell away from it. Instead, they run towards it after ONE girl that may already be dead. Then they decide its a good idea to pursue her even after another girl dies due to contact with the little spider creatures (in one of the coolest scenes of the movie) AND they find out the building she is in is leaning and about to collapse. I mean, I understand the whole love angle and all, but in 99% of instances these characters would have been dead attempting to go after this girl or would have died in the process of getting to her, or she would have already been dead. I think it would have been more realistic if she was dead, honestly.
There are other problems too. For instance, the characters never pick up the weapons or objects available to them to ward off monster attackers. There’s just no common sense here. I would have any blunt object i could hold in my possession. Additionally, I know the cameraman needs to film or there’s no movie, but there are definitely points where the suspension of disbelief is broken and I thought “come on, no way would I be filming while doing this”. The Blair Witch had a similar issue at the end, and I guess it is kinda unavoidable when trying to do this. And while I get that the camera is going be bouncing around, I thought it was a little much at times, and it was enough to make anyone a little queasy. My last issue was that some of the creature shots up close looked too CG and ruined the mystery around it. After showing the creature, it was very anticlimactic and not all that great. The movie would have been better served keeping the monster in the dark and just showing quick cuts and glimpses.
But it does do some things well. There are several times when the movie purposely avoids showing you the action and instead you hear it and see the character’s reactions instead. The scene where they are hiding in the subway is a good example of this. There are also a few really great, frantic action scenes where you really feel like you are there with the characters, and the situation is very real. The movie also moves along at a brisk pace and doesn’t let you get bored enough to tire of the concept. Also, while some of the actions are questionable, the character’s emotions seem genuine. There is very little acting-type dialogue and more real life dialogue, which doesn’t result in overwrought acting when something happens. I was also glad the movie didn’t really have a happy ending. Too many monster movies end up with a miracle “oh we can stop him with this!” ending, which is forced and annoying. Instead, here, we get what I would suspect would happen if a gigantic monster attacked New York and couldn’t be stopped: it would not be stopped.
So the movie certainly isn’t perfect, and there are definitely some things it could have done better with small tweaks, and all the hype behind it certainly wasn’t warranted, but it is an enjoyable film. It’s a little something different than popping in a Godzilla flick, and it mostly delivers on its concept.