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Welcome to the Blair Godzilla Project!
Cloverfield: Rated PG-13 (84 Minutes)
Starring: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T. J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel
Directed by: Matt Reeves
King of the Monsters
Much has been written about this film since it came out in 2008 (and we are sort of looking for the sequel, 10 Cloverfield Lane, which is currently playing in theaters) and we’re sure that much more will be written still, especially now that the long-awaited “sequel” is here (there is still talk about how 10 Cloverfield is a “not quite” sequel, but that is the subject of an entirely different article). At any rate, this film (Cloverfield) is, by his own admission, director J.J. Abrams paean to Japan’s cult of Godzilla. Shot Blair Witch-style, the film gave viewers a hand-held, shaky-cam feel to the film as it offered up a single-person point-of-view to the entire proceedings. Sure, sure it was (at the time) a novel approach and all that (the style now done to death in numerous badly-made films substituting the “shaky-cam” nonsense for actual cinematography). Even here the effect is quite maddening as it (for better or worse) puts the viewer on the same playing field with the participants of the film itself.
Cloverfield on Blu-Ray
As the world teeters on the brink of World War II, 10 strangers are invited to isolated Soldier Island. Among them are young secretary Vera Claythorne (Maeve Dermody, Serangoon Road), soldier Philip Lombard (Aidan Turner, Poldark), General John MacArther (Sam Neill, Jurassic Park), spinster Emily Brent (Miranda Richardson, Parade’s End), and Judge Lawrence Wargrave (Charles Dance, Game of Thrones). With seemingly nothing in common, the guests wonder who their mysterious host may be. But the ominous reason for their visit soon becomes clear…and by the end of the night, the first of them is dead.
The down side to that is that it is very disorienting as the camera isn’t always pointed quite at the center or focal point of the action. Then, of course sometimes the pertinent dialogue is buried by the ambient noise surrounding the action. Plus, there is always the fact that being forced to shoot the entire film from a single camera reduces much of the visual dialogue and cinematic “tricks” (if you will) with which Abrams can use to tell his story.
Marketing the Film
Having said all that, Cloverfield itself is either one of the best marketing campaigns for a film ever engineered or an over-hyped piece of crap that was much ado about not so much. That’s right, kids, it is entirely possible that the emperor has no clothes. First up, we are treated to an opening scene with two young lovers waking up post coitus. That sweetness soon gives way to camera shots of the going away party for Rob (Stahl-David) where he is taking up his new position as a vice-president in the Tokyo office (VP? We’re reasonably certain that we have underwear older than this fuzz-faced rookie!) It is during this segment that we get introduced to all of the major players and learn some of their collective back-stories. Anywho, something outside the building disturbes the party and during the confusion that ensues the partygoers all rush up to the roof where they witness a fiery explosion in NY harbor.
Life's a Party!
Tearing up New York City
This explosion sends chunks of debris spiraling into the heart of the city. Frantic, everyone rushes downstairs to the street. Once there, they realize they are totally fubared when one big chunk of debris that lands in the street is the head of the Statue of Liberty. As you can expect, this is so not a good sign. Now, here is where the film truly takes off as a small group of friends from the party determine that they really need to get the Hell out of Dodge. Only as they are crossing out of the City on foot over the Brooklyn Bridge, whatever it is that has attacked the city rears its head (even though we still can’t actually see the thing) and batters the bridge killing (we can only assume) Rob’s brother along with numerous other folks attempting to flee.
What is that in the Sky?
The power of True Love
While this is happening, Rob receives a static-filled phone call from Beth (Yustman) — his old girl friend (or rather an old friend of his who is female that he slept with once a couple of months ago and then never called, yes, it’s the girl from the video, and about whom everyone was talking at the party). This now sets up the action for the rest of the film as the four remaining friends head uptown in a desperate attempt to find and rescue the girl (who Rob has now determined is his one true love).
The Big Apple in ruins.
Well, to return to the production aspects of the film, the first-person, single-camera POV is either a remarkable, ground-breaking concept in feature film-making that will suck you directly into the film, or it is an annoyingly irritating nuisance-like marketing trick that will make you disoriented and simply suck out loud, or somewhere in between; you’ll have to decide that for yourself.
Always time for cuddling
Personally, this reviewer found it interesting, but not groundbreaking (plus the whole running with the camera thing is pretty unbelievable, not to mention the fact that the camera’s battery lasted like nine or 10 hours while the cell phone Rob was carrying burned out in a couple of minutes, and then was replaced with a freshly-charged battery right off the store shelf — you are free to find more plot inconsistencies here). Still, we did (mostly) enjoy the film for what it was, a lead-in to the next film. Oh yea, we also rather enjoyed the in-joke reference to Godzilla (remember, Rob was transferring to Japan) that occurred early in the film, because Abrams always made it clear that he was making an American version of Japan’s favorite son.)
Trailer for 10 Clover Lane
All-in-all, the film was neither as bad-awful (or as wicked-good) as either end of the spectrum of critics would have you believe. It was simply OK, which, unfortunately counts against it as it really should have been spectacular.