Cloverfield

January 17th, 2008 by exolstice

cloverfield

In case you missed all the hype and buzz on the internet about this movie (I certainly did, having never heard of it before getting free passes), Cloverfield is an attempt to revitalize the monster movie genre. The filmmaker’s thinking was that, and I can’t completely disagree with them, giant monster movies of the past always had a less than threatening quality about them (think King Kong, or Godzilla). The movie was also accompanied by a viral internet marketing campaign designed to get people excited about a movie that they otherwise probably wouldn’t have cared about (think Blair Witch Project). Cloverfield was meant to be the faux-documentary/ultimate-giant-monster movie. So did they succeed?

Well that all depends on if you find bad camera work scary. The movie looks like it was shot by someone having a seizure while riding a mechanical bull on a rubber dingy on the ocean during a particularly violent storm. I get that they were going for a homemade quality, but come on! I’ve never seen such atrocious camera work in anyone’s home movies, not even when the person operating the camera was drunk. If you get motion-sickness, bring a bag, you’ll need it. You might say that a shaky camera would be normal in world-ending situation, fair enough, except the first THIRD of the movie takes place at one of the most interminable parties ever put to film, and the camera is just as bad throughout that section. They explain this fact by having the guy filming repeatedly tell people that it’s his first time using a camera. Very clever! Except that no sane able-bodied person would shake the camera that much. In an effort to make things more “real” they wound up making them look more fake.

Which brings me to my next issue with the film. Everything takes place from the point of view of a single camera. That sounds fine in theory, but for a movie like this one, it means the filmmakers had to come up with all sorts of contrivances as an excuse to have the camera there in the first place. Take the party for example, it’s used to setup the main characters for the rest of the film. Again, I could just imagine the writers cooking this stuff up: “How do we setup the characters? Let’s have a going away party and have someone film mini-interviews that the leaving person can take away with him!” Sounds brilliant right? It might have worked, except that of the 100+ guests at party, only the characters that appear in the rest of the film get their testimonies captured. Our intrepid cameraman also films private conversations to conveniently setup dubious character motivations later on.

A movie like this one can only succeed if we care about the fate of the characters, and I never did. They’re just food for the monster. It’s hard to feel sympathy for characters that keep making completely illogical decisions. For example, when everyone is running away from the monster, trying to get off the island, the characters decided to go back into the thick of it to save a friend trapped in the 39th floor of a building all the way across town. Which would be great if they were Marines with nerves of steel, but even the battle-hardened soldiers have enough sense to run away from the monster. The characters are not believable in the slightest.

As for the monster, well that’s where this movie gets its 2 stars from. They did a really great job with it. It looks like something from a Lovecraft story, but I’ll say no more in case people still want to see this movie. I think that’s what frustrated me the most, that they had such a great concept and they chose to ruin it with a rubbish film making style. Had they shot it in a semi-conventional way, I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more.

**

Buy from Amazon.com : Cloverfield
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Posted in Movie Reviews

3 Responses

  1. Arby

    “It might have worked, except that of the 100+ guests at party, only the characters that appear in the rest of the film get their testimonies captured.”
    So you’re saying they should have interviewed 100 guests even though they have nothing to do with the film? WTF

  2. exolstice

    I’m saying they shouldn’t have used a handheld camera as their film style and that’s just one of the many reasons why. Of course I didn’t expect them to show every guest on the video, I was just pointing out that within the context of the film, it didn’t make any sense.

    To be fair, I was nitpicking on that point, but when I dislike something I go all the way. I don’t half-ass it.

  3. Arby

    The movie was good. If you force me to sit through a screening of “Cloverfield” or the american “Godzilla”, I’ll sit through Cloverfield TWICE if it means avoiding the hollywood shlock that is Godzilla.

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