Review: Cloverfield

If a Godzilla-type monster attacked, what would the event look like from ground zero?

This also doubles as our Weekend Review.

Cast and Crew

Director: Matt Reeves
Writer: Drew Goddard

Cast:

Lizzy Caplan as Marlena Diamond
Michael Stahl David as Rob Hawkins
Jessica Lucas as Lily Ford
T.J. Miller as Hud Platt
Odette Yustman as Beth McIntyre
Mike Vogel as Jason Hawkins

Full credits available at the imdb.

Premise

When a monster of the kaiju variety attacks contemporary New York City, a group of twenty-somethings record the action while trying to rescue a trapped friend.

High Point

The film takes two genres that have become bad jokes– Kaiju and
Disaster— and makes them scary and compelling.

Low Point

I appreciate the conceit of having the film be Hud’s recording of events, but could he have been slightly more competent with the camera? Seriously, if you’re prone to nausea, pack the gravol. In addition, I want his camcorder, which survives a considerable amount of violence.

I hate to pick nits, but would Lily continue to wear heels for miles of walking and 39 flights of climbing? And if she did, would those heels continue to look pristine?

“Are her heels made of titanium?”

–my wife.

The Review

Originality: 3/6 Blair Witch techniques capture a giant monster invading NYC, with echoes of Alien and Lovecraft. However, the particular blend has a kind of originality.

Effects: 6/6. The effects have been seamlessly integrated. This really looks like camcorder footage of New York under attack by a big honkin’ monster.

Story 4/6. Once the attack starts, the pacing does not relent. Some people will doubtless dislike the lack of context or explanation, but given the premise, the film really can’t provide any. Let’s face it: the explanations in those old Kaiju films never made much sense. I also like Rob’s ambivalent motivation for his actions.

Acting: 6/6. Overall, I could believe in these characters, contemporary twenty-somethings. Ideally I’d give them 5.5, since no one really shone, but they did an excellent job of sustaining the illusion.

I’m pretty sure I was at that party twenty years ago, except we didn’t have cell phones.

We might have been slightly less superficial.

Also, the party didn’t get interrupted by a big honkin’ monster.

Hud’s sporadic humorous lines vary in their success. “That’s something else. Also awful,” made me laugh. His question about Superman just seemed idiotic.

Production 6/6.

Emotional Response: 5/6 In the same way that the original Gojira processed the Japanese reaction to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki into a monster movie, this film clearly reflects upon 9-11. We’re aware of that while watching, yet the fact did not feel cheaply exploitive. The best horror films have always been, to some degree, about real-world concerns.

Overall 5/6

In total, Cloverfield receives 35 out of 42.

12 replies on “Review: Cloverfield”

  1. chad says:

    Low Point, etc.
    She took off her shoes for the stair climb, then put them back on once the reached the top (and walked across the broken glass).

    I considered this an average film (3 out of 5).

    I didn’t like how so much information was left out, especially about the end. I know they did this on purpose, but I still didn’t like it.

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  2. obiwan says:

    Context
    The film shouldn’t provide any. It’s a monster. It’s huge. It’s doing monster things. That’s all you need to know. Any attempt at an explanation would be a trite rehash of the tropes you’ve already seen a million times over. It was genetically engineered. It’s from outer space. It’s a mutant from the deep. Take your pick, it doesn’t really matter. The movie was about the characters’ point of view during a monster attack, and it tells that story well.

  3. GrimSean says:

    Where do I find that Camera?
    I think Hud may go down as being one of my favourite characters in recent memory – although his name was a none-to-subtle joke and his death was quite emotionally wrenching and broke the narrative flow (in a completely understandable way) with the drastic point of view change.

    However, getting back to my subject, I think the camera may be the largest element of fiction in this already fantastic story. Batteries that last for more than six hours, the ability to survive mastication by a giant monster AND a nuclear blast (not to mention several sizable jolts and falls). On one hand I wish there had been more closure with it (perhaps a clean-up crew finding it) and on the other I’m glad there wasn’t, since it allows more speculation.

    Out of curiosity, was I imagining things at the end of the movie, or did anyone else see something in the background at Coney Island, dropping out of the sky into the ocean? I think that it suggests that the monster came from outer space, but I could be crazy.

    Also, I’m back. Again.

    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: Where do I find that Camera?

      However, getting back to my subject, I think the camera may be the largest element of fiction in this already fantastic story. Batteries that last for more than six hours, the ability to survive mastication by a giant monster AND a nuclear blast (not to mention several sizable jolts and falls).

      The military attack is, based on the effects and statements made by the filmmakers, definitely not a nuclear blast, but conventional bombardment. How the camera survived everything else, however, is a mystery. As for the battery, since the tape is supposedly unedited, it only "ran" for the ninety minutes or so of the film.

      Out of curiosity, was I imagining things at the end of the movie, or did anyone else see something in the background at Coney Island, dropping out of the sky into the ocean? I think that it suggests that the monster came from outer space, but I could be crazy.

      You’re not imagining it. This leads some people to conclude the monster was alien, while others, based on the online clues I’ve been avoiding until now, conclude it’s a satellite which had something to do with awakening a creature that has been there all along.

      As you’ve written, it doesn’t really matter and, as I’ve written, the explanations offered by previous giant monster movies never really made much sense except as an excuse to have a giant monster rampage through a city.

  4. TwistyHat says:

    Amazon
    So, new embedded amazon adds which cause the browser to crash – that’s great.

    It’s also great that girl keeps her shoes on, sign of a lady – even though I haven’t seen then film and probably wont if its a handheld barf fest.

    • Timeshredder says:

      Re: Amazon

      So, new embedded amazon adds which cause the browser to crash – that’s great.

      The ads aren’t new, though I put a few more than usual in this review. If the browser crashed, it likely has more to do with a server problem that we had yesterday, which has since been addressed.

      • Dave says:

        Re: Amazon

        So, new embedded amazon adds which cause the browser to crash – that’s great.

        The ads aren’t new, though I put a few more than usual in this review. If the browser crashed, it likely has more to do with a server problem that we had yesterday, which has since been addressed.

        Yeah, the amazon "mouse-over an item and see its picture" ads have been here for about a year. Really, if I could find a way to not have ads and yet still break even on the site, I’d love to do so. :)

        The issues yesterday (with our budget hosting service) shouldn’t have led to crashes, just to plain white screens that say "zomg the database is broke."

  5. joe__gee says:

    The movie was more than I expected …
    I watched the online "hype" from the marketing web sites. I thought the sites pretty much fell flat after the initial promise.

    I’ve now watched this movie twice. I may see it one more time on the big screen. I’ll definitely buy the DVD.

    Ny major problem: Rob’s motivation annoyed me. I kept wanting Hud, Marlena, and Lily to say "Screw you, go dance around Clover’s feet and wrestle with the crack-fleas to save your girlfriend. We are *so* out of here." Clover goes STOMP. Rob goes *squish*. End of movie.

    I guess I’m glad Hud, Marlena, and Lily were weak-willed. Again, Rob’s motivation seemed contrived, but the rest of the movie, for me, was very enjoyable.

    The subway scene with the night vision was truly horrifying, and I never felt the movie was at all compromised to bring it in under a PG-13 rating. Once it got going, it didn’t stop. It was as relentless a movie as I recall seeing in the past several years. It was beautifully paced.

    Some of the flaws pointed out elsewhere:

    The monster was everywhere our lead characters were. Yup. It was all over Manhattan because the army kept chasing it. Lots of people ran into the monster more than they wanted to that night.

    The army responded too quickly. As I recall, New York is one of a few cities still under Homeland Security’s orange alert. In addition, there are national guard posts all over the area. I’d bet they could be firing missiles within an hour. In today’s world if you have anything threatening a major American city and you’ll be able to have fighter jets strafing it in less than thirty minutes. The Tagruato tanker was sunk in the harbor. The Statue of Liberty had been attacked. Within a few minutes, fighter jets hit the monster. Sounds reasonable to me.

    The video camera battery lasted seven hours. Not necessarily. I’m assuming they knew where the off button was.

    The trek through the subway took too long. See above.

    As for the monster, it made Godzilla look like a puppy. :) It didn’t disappoint me one bit. I heard people saying "what is it?!" I liked that there didn’t seem to be a reference animal for it.

    From the net, the thing splashing into the sea was a satellite. It may or may not have awakened the monster. Jason is wearing a Slusho t-shirt.

    Can anyone read Japanese and translate what’s on http://www.tagruato.jp ?

    -Joe

  6. rickyjames says:

    My Low Point
    I thought this was one very well done flick. It does prove, however, that JJ should not be given more than 90 minutes to tell a story. In that length of time he can incorporate ambiguity as a legitimate plot element instead of letting it overwhelm his ongoing storyline over the years because he doesn’t have a clue on how to end what he’s started (Lost, Alias, and God help me, even Felicity which was my guilty pleasure years ago).

    My low point which I’m astounded wasn’t mentioned here was pulling the impaled girlfriend off of a piece of rebar. Well, not pulling her off, but her running flat out at the head of the pack mere minutes later. She should just been physically pinned under debris and freed by her buds pulling an I beam off of her. C’mon, people have been impaled in the chest like that and survived, sure, but they’re flat-on-their-back ICU medflight cases when they’re freed. No way somebody would have acted like she did after such an ordeal. That broke my suspension of disbelief a LOT more than the monster(s), which were very well done. At least Spike Girl didn’t grab a pair of high heels for street level use on her way out of the apartment.

    Interesting comment about the background sky shot at Coney Island – didn’t catch that. Thanks.

    • joe__gee says:

      Re: My Low Point

      My low point which I’m astounded wasn’t mentioned here was pulling the impaled girlfriend off of a piece of rebar. Well, not pulling her off, but her running flat out at the head of the pack mere minutes later. She should just been physically pinned under debris and freed by her buds pulling an I beam off of her. C’mon, people have been impaled in the chest like that and survived, sure, but they’re flat-on-their-back ICU medflight cases when they’re freed. No way somebody would have acted like she did after such an ordeal. That broke my suspension of disbelief a LOT more than the monster(s), which were very well done. At least Spike Girl didn’t grab a pair of high heels for street level use on her way out of the apartment.

      Heh. Thanks for reminding me. Sucking chest wounds, well, they suck, but only if a lung was punctured. I was wondering what would happen re: the bleeding once she was pulled free. The rebar could have pierced that area without impaling any arteries or organs, but I agree, she still would have at least been *damned sore*. Most people with that injury wouldn’t be able to raise or move their arm much above the elbow.

      Adrenalin does have analgesic properties, but from my own experience if you harm the muscles in that area, they cramp and pull, and the pain is pretty awful. These are the twenty-somethings that were fretting and sulking earlier about who had just slept with who, they’re not Rambo.

      Besides sound in space, bad physics, and ridiculous computer UIs, so many movies get injuries really wrong. Gut shot people are not able to twist, turn, and bend; people with broken bones do not reset their broken limb *snap* and then proceed to fight with it; people with various other wounds do not use the wounded body part as if nothing were wrong with it.

      Of course, New York is also not overrun with 500 foot long monsters shedding Doberman Pinscher-sized fleas.

      That said, thankfully Beth wasn’t in the movie for long afterwards.

      -Joe

      • zonk3r says:

        Re: My Low Point
        One of my biggest problems is that the sense of scale of the monster seemed to change throughout the movie. In some scenes it appeared incredibly huge and in others it seemed quite small. I understand the body and that the scenes where it was small it was essentially ducking down but it still made it visually confusing.

        I generally enjoyed it though. And to those complaining about the end of the movie (nobody really complaining about it in this forum but I heard some folks in the theatre complaining) you should have known the ending. It was basically told to you in the first 10 seconds of the film.

        As for motion sickness… Sit in the very center at the very back of the theatre. The more peripheral vision you have the less it will affect you.

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