1/18/08

My Cloverfield Review

It drank more than 6!

After 6 months of fake websites, unknown titles, and a mysterious monster that may or may not be Godzilla it comes time to actually view Cloverfield. I secured my midnight showing tickets and headed downtown to catch the event. It's hard to imagine any film living up the amount of hype that Cloverfield has received. However, I came out of the theater completely satisfied.

(Spoilers included, be warned)

J.J. Abrams (producer), Drew Goddard (writer), and Matt Reeves (director) teamed up to bring the Godzilla saga to the States. "Cloverfield" is a modern-day "Godzilla" built around underlying allegories just as the Japanese classic. The concept of Cloverfield was to modernize the classic monster-destroys-city genera and it succeeds with honors. While Godzilla had nuclear war, we are left to place the Cloverfield Monster into our society. The Monster itself can stand for a wide array of various issues. Or if you want it's just a big-ass monster destroying Manhattan.

Technology is the tool Matt Reeves uses to bring Cloverfield to the modern audiences. The strength of the movie lies in that technology has updated the way people see the world. Reeves brazenly displays that fact for all of us to see and digest in unaltered bits of video. This new attitude toward recording events as they happen takes its style from the 9/11 attacks and more so the homemade footage of war torn Iraq. It's doesn't take much to imagine the more chaotic scenes from the movie being set in Baghdad.

Cloverfield is a smart and savvy update on a tired genera. Director Matt Reeves created an instant pop culture reference point with Cloverfield. The way studios make and market movies now has a new benchmark.

Cloverfield was produced on a tiny budget of $25-30 Million with a cast of unknowns and will easily be the most profitable movie of the year. Hype alone will get its money back in the first week. J.J. Abrams and crew knew their target audience and hit them directly with a bullseye.

The beauty of Cloverfield is it doesn't try to be much more than an account of a tragic event. Central character Rob Hawkins has everything in his life taken away from him. He struggles through a night where he witnesses the death of most of his loved ones and friends. That's more than most people can take.

Rob and the rest of the characters end up leaving a visual record of how they ended their lives. The way people record disastrous events and share them with the world changed the style of film making as well as the storytelling. The social networks and viral videos have created a new generation of filmmakers. People who want to share an experience in an intimate way.

Cloverfield wisely loses the blackboard moments where a military leader or scientist explains the facts that have led up to the event. In typical J.J. Abrams you will probably leave the theater with more questions than you enter with. The back story of the characters is kept rather vague to keep with the moment-in-time style. Instead of long narratives and deep back story you jump right into the fray with the characters as they are at that exact moment.

You learn about them from that instance in time on. With the world crumbling around them, Reeves doesn't spend time flushing out their life history. Instead, you are left to take out of the film only what is viewed on the camera.

The same goes for the Cloverfield Monster. No moment arises when people really know what's going on or where the Monster comes from. Instead, they are simply reacting. The military doesn't know how to stop the Monster and will sacrifice the entire island of Manhattan to stop its carnage. The cast of Cloverfield is not there to stop the Monster by any means. Instead they are racing against the clock to survive. Rob will stop at nothing to find Beth and each character has the choice to turn around at some point but stays with the group.

Cameraman Hud continues to film the night's events because he believes it is a story that needs to be told. When the Statue of Liberty's head rolls to a stop people whip out cameras and cell phones to preserve the moment. We also lose the conveniently ended story where the couple kisses in the sunset. No sunset here, folks. Only the blast of a nuclear bomb and tons of rubble.

The only real storyline setback is the forced love story between Rob and Beth. While I loved the older tape under the tragic events portion, the lack of character development does hinder this type of storyline. The two characters just aren't flushed out enough to really empathize with Rob going into the Gates of Hell to rescue Beth.

There are 3 main drawbacks to consider before viewing Cloverfield. First, the film is shot entirely in the hand-held mode. The film clocks in around 73 minutes (plus another 12 for the end credits) which makes the YouTube-style cinematography bearable. Just be warned if this is not your type of film. There's no way I could have lasted 2+ hours like this! I enjoyed the new take on the monster movie and the style didn't bother me at all.

Second, if you are a true fan of the Clovefield viral world you will be very upset. It plays almost no part in the film. There's no Slusho (other than Jason's shirts), no Tagruato (unless you count a 1/4 second logo on a burning oil tanker, and no Jamie and Teddy. Jamie appears for roughly 1 second passed out drunk on a couch. This is a heavy blow for people who have vested months of questions and research into following the mysteries of Cloverfield.

Finally, the ending is questionable. You either like it or hate it. Because of the nature of the movie, the ending takes an odd turn. Rob and Beth are near ground zero for the end and the camera footage of the attack stops. It cuts to the tape running out as the two are at Coney Island a month before. Then fade to black. That left a lot of people grumbling in the theater after the lights came on. Personally, I like the ending and thought it fit rather nicely into the style of the movie.

A few quick answers for pending questions. Yes, you do see the Cloverfield Monster. There are plenty of shots as it destroys the city as well as a nice, solo shot in the end of its head. Also, there is no soundtrack. Cloverfield tries to cling to a reality-based account of the attack and thus the soundtrack is ditched. It works for this type of movie. However, my favorite part of the movie is in the end credits. Composer Michael Giacchino actually does music for the film. He gets one song in the end credits and makes the most of it. "Roar! (Cloverfield Overture)," has it all! It's what every action, monster, and drama film should have in their credits. Take a few minutes to sample it after the movie ends.

Also, the film also takes place on May 22. No year is mentioned but it is not far off from now. Even though you can still go to the 1-18-08 website and see they still tag their pictures as taking place on 1-18-08 you will have to suspend that fact and go with the new spring timeline. And yes, the door is left wide open for a sequel.

Overall, Cloverfield is a fun and wide ride that will assault your senses. It is fast and furious and redefines the monster movie style. I know most of my visitors who have been with me for awhile are going to see the movie regardless. I truly hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

I also just want to say thanks for everyone that stopped by this site. I never dreamed of how big this movie or my little blog would get. I would never have guessed of all the big sites who picked up my posts or that I would even be doing interviews for newspapers. It's all humbling and has been a real fun time.

As a token of my appreciation I have a link to a video that will show you a quick 20 second clip of the Large Cloverfield and Small Cloverfield Monsters, should you wish to see what they are before you see the movie.

Enjoy!

17 comments:

Justin Camera said...

Very well written, thanks for the review.

I was really hoping this was going to be Voltron :(

Anonymous said...

Awesome .. I’ve been looking up reviews and info for this film, and it seems to be getting pretty solid ratings. And it’s really interesting that they’re promoting the film with the fallen Statue of Liberty..it definitely sets an undertone of the America being attacked..Maxim actually did a little bit on it.
http://www.maxim.com/Entertainment/MoviesThatMangletheStatueofLiberty/slideshow/673.aspx?src=dx18:mtd

John said...

It was a good movie. I wasn't blown away and you said it best. There is no way any movie could live up to the hype that Cloverfield received.

gregbo73 said...

Cloverfield was amazing on so many levels. I have to completely disagree and say, for the time and style of the movie, I completely bought into the characters and Rob's "true" love for Beth compelling him to go after her. MOST IMPORTANTLY - Did no one else see something hit the water in the very last flash back scene to Coney Island???? Something off to the right slammed down in the water, possibly a parasite that was falling off the monster in the rest of the movie. In other words, maybe the parasites were actually embryos and the Cloverfield monster embryo's initial "touchdown" on earth was captured on film by Rob at Coney Island. Somebody else confirm or dispel this. I know that I saw something, but no one else around me saw it. The shot lingered as if we were supposed to see something...

Anonymous said...

One thing that would have been cool..

Shoot the movie like normal...

Take along a camcorder and do the amateur documentary version for 1-18-08 release. Then.. put out the real deal full blown on 5-22-08 as a professional filmed masterpiece!

JJ missed out.. he could have doubled his money.

kph59 said...

Cloverfield was, IMO, the greatest movie I've ever seen. The camera work was insane. Very impressed. The Monster itself was the most kick ass thing I've seen in a long time. No doupt that Cloverfield will be among the top ranking movies of the year.

Chris said...

yes good job, i have this to add, at the end of the movie when rob and beth are on the ferris wheel a object off in the distance dives into the sea, also during the beginning of the credits a pic of the lochness monster is flashed in the upper right corner, and all the way after the credits through static rob says "what now" overall i loved it and will see again

Robert Peterson said...

Very good review and I thank you for the spoilers. For very personal reasons I stopped being interested in Cloverfield but from I hear it may be worth getting back into. Are you sure Slusho had no part in the monster's creation?

Drawer2000 said...

Robert P,

Nothing I saw was stated about the link. They never even mention the companies like Tagruato or Slusho even when talking about Rob's new job. All they say is he is going to Japan.

There never really is much discussion on what the monster is or what it is there for. Only speculation from bystandards.

There seems to be a giant link between the two in the viral world but I never saw it in the film.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the majority of your review, with the exception of the relationship between Rob and Beth. I think that this may be because I’m in a relationship myself, but it doesn’t take much for me to have empathy for these two characters. Actually, the previous footage that was taped over created the kind of realistic balance of a happy couple in love. Basically, what I’m saying is that I didn’t need any convincing, because a glimpse of their relationship was good enough for me to believe it…besides, it gave Rob’s character a reason to press on.

brandon.weight said...

Great review! I just saw the movie tonight with a friend, and the whole movie was insanely awesome. One piece of information to add though. You mentioned a nuclear attack in one of your earlier paragraphs:

"Only the blast of a nuclear bomb and tons of rubble."

Sorry to say, but a nuclear blast would rule out the tape being found, as it would probably be destroyed too. It would most likely be a "carpet bombing" or something similar. Sorry to scrutinize your review, but it was still great!

shibbymet said...

OK well, i agree with most of your review, but heres a mistake you made, a lot of people... maybe everyone missed this except for me and my cousin... the whole side theme of the love story.... it has a huge clue as to where the monster comes from.. at the VERY end of the movie when they are on the ferris wheel at coney island.. you see something come out of the sky and splash in the water..... (maybe the monster.. who knows).. but i have a strong feeling that THIS is the entire signifigance of why the government kept the tape for review..because it showed evidence of where the monster came from... and that is in a sence why the little love scene footage was actually more important than the whole movie alltogether, because it shows you that scene at the very end..... if you end up catching it again.. look for it.. upper left of the screen, its rather fast.. but you can see the object splash into the water pretty far off. But like i said not many people caught it... i think its by far the most important thing in the entire movie.

Dube said...

Shibbymet's comment is great! Maybe the love relationship wasn't a total waste after all. ;-)

I was less than thrilled about this movie. I just don't agree with the hype. I even wrote a "less than excited" verdict about the movie on my blog. I was one of the lucky people who got to sit in the front row, so the shaky camera thing left me queasy reallly fast. Despite not being thrilled about the movie, I'd love to see a sequel that explains what the heck was going on. :-P

Jenny said...

the monster doesnt look that big...

93FLEETWOOD said...

My question, is it more than one(1) giant/major monster? On some scenes it looks like a loch ness monster wanna-be, or an elasmosaurus but that part where camera boy got chewed up(this video), looks different, like one of them giant mantis monster in them old movies...

Anonymous said...

i was disappointed with this movie...i was so into it and then nothing...people actually walked out on this movie....waste of time...and yes the alien looks just like the angels from evangelion....

Eric said...

The "Hammerdown Protocol" was probably my least favorite part of this movie.

A complete, wide devastation (in a monster movie) makes sense in two cases: a. the problem can spread (e.g. zombies) and b. a nuke is used to kill a monster that conventional weapons can't hurt.

This explosion wasn't nuclear (sorry to disagree with the review), judging by the multiple explosions in the distance, the two part explosion at the end of the film, and the fact that the camera (or at least the tape) was later found intact.

So, how would it make sense to carpet bomb Manhattan when the monster was a reasonably small target? If all of the bombs were focused on the monster instead of spread out, the damage done to the monster would've been greater and the collateral effect lesser.

The only reason carpet bombing was EVER used was that the technology of the time (WWII) didn't allow a precise attack.

That said, I really hope the sequel (if one is made) is focused on the same characters (Rob and Beth, and maybe Lisa). I honestly didn't care that much about the monster. I was much more interested in the tragedy of the characters.

Click on the "OLDER POSTS" above to start up the Cloverfield archives and see how it all began.

What is Cloverfield?

Welcome to 1-18-08 Project Cloverfield Blog.

Cloverfield is the J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias) produced monster flick directed by Matt Reeves. Get caught up on all the Cloverfield news including the viral world of Tagruato, TIDOwave, and Slusho!? And now Aladygma?

However, I love viral campaigns. Cloverfield taught me the fun of being involved with the viral world of movies and TV. That's why I'd like to branch out this site to cover some of the major viral campaigns as they are developing. Feel free to drop me a line or tip on any you find interesting.

Welcome to Cloverfield

Very few facts emerged from the viral campaign that was Cloverfield. It all started after a short, teaser trailer for Cloverfield appeared with the Transformers movie in early July of 2007. Since then, speculation surrounded what the title of the movie would be (Monstrous, Overnight, etc...) and what the monster really is and why it is tearing up New York City.

A few pictures and covert videos from the film showed up online and there were only a few core facts we knew of including the poster, the teaser trailer, and a few websites at 1-18-08, Tagruato Corp, and Slusho .

In November, the official full-length Cloverfield trailer was released that helped open up the story as well as cement the "Cloverfield" name for the movie. A short glimpse of the Cloverfield Monster was seen but for most people they still had little or no clue as to what it was.

The movie centered around five young New Yorkers throwing their friend a going-away party the night that a monster the size of a skyscraper descends upon the city. Told from the point of view of their video camera, the film is a document of their attempt to survive the most surreal, horrifying event of their lives. Cloverfield opened the weekend of 1-18-08 and set box office records for a movie in January with a monster take of over $40M. Continue to check back here for updates on the mystery and viral campaigns of Cloverfield.

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Get Started with the Cloverfield Viral Marketing

If you're new to the Cloverfield viral world than let's get started. First off, for the beginners let's look at what we're talking about.

What does viral marketing mean? Click here.

1-18-08.com Updates with pictures randomly. Each picture is layered onto of the previous update and all can be dragged and moved around the screen. Click and hold the mouse to 'grab' an image and move it around. While holding the image, shake it back and forth quickly and it will flip over. Some images have writing on the back.

Slusho This is the Japanese frozen drink made from a secret ingredient gathered from the bottom of the ocean. Slusho gives you a kick and makes you extremely happy. Prior to 1-18-08 Slusho was not sold in the US. However, recent FDA approval gave Slusho clearance to come to the states. Rob Hawkins, the lead character, was recently promoted to vice-president of Slusho and was on his way to Japan the night of the attack. Slusho is owned by the Tagruato Corp. of Japan. Slusho also first made an appearance on J.J. Abrams Alias during a scene where characters buy the drink at a store.

Tagruato This ficticious Japanese company is the parent company of Slusho as well as the Yoshida Medical Research, Bold Futura, and ParafFUN! Wax Distributors. Besides drilling the oceans for Slusho ingredients, Tagruato builds everything from space satellites to medical gear.

T.I.D.O wave An activist group set out to bring to light all the damage Tagruato has done to the envirnoment.

Jamie and Teddy A minor character from the movie, Jamie popped up on a 1-18-08.com picture and the MySpace profiles for the movies characters before getting famous for her "Jamie and Teddy" website. The site is comprised of video journals from Jamie. The site is password protected but can be accessed by the password "jllovesth"

What Is Slusho?

Slusho ! You Can't Drink 6

Cloverfield Poster

Poster Official Cloverfield Poster. The poster was officially released the week of the 2007 Comic-con in San Diego.

Project Cloverfield 1-18-08

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