Review – Cloverfield January 17, 2008by Anthony Pascale , Filed under: 1-18-08/Cloverfield,Abrams,Review,Sci-Fi , trackback
Starting Friday many Trekkies will be heading to the theaters to see the new Star Trek trailer playing with Cloverfield. However, you just might want to stay and check out the overly-hyped but thoroughly entertaining JJ Abrams-produced monster movie.
Review below contains some spoilers
The old adage “it’s not the destination, but the journey” is truly fitting for the YouTube generation-inspired monsterfest that is Cloverfield. Not only does the film break all the conventions of your typical horror/monster film, but it breaks the mold on films in general. It is presented to you essentially as an eye-witness account of a seriously bad night on the island of Manhattan.
Anyone familiar with the trailers and viral campaign pretty much already knows the beginning of the film. We have a going away party for Rob (Mike Vogel) which is being shot by his best bud and your guide for the film, Hud (T.J. Miller). While we what for it to hit the fan we meet various friends and family and you starting trying to figure out which ones are going to make it out of the movie alive. Then about 20 minutes in…. blammo….something happens and the rest of the film descends into chaos theory.
Rob’s night started so nicely
Quickly the film turns into a road movie where Rob and small band head out of the party and head on various quests. First to get out of town, then to save Rob's unrequited love, and then just to survive. All the while the film mixes banal moments of wandering while Hud does his best Napoleon Dynamite impersonation with sheer moments of terror punctuated by Jaws-like glimpses of ‘the monster.’
The only real exposition you get is from brief moments when the weary group pass a TV in a window or some military types who seem to know only slightly more than Rob and his crew. The POV style shot adeptly by director Matt Reeves never gives you the typical monster movie scene of a frazzled scientist bursting into the President’s office with the answer to what it is and how to kill it. The closest you get is Hud spewing a few conspiracy theories which were very much reminiscent of how Sawyer or Hurley on Lost make fannish guesses to that island’s mysteries. This of course is no surprise since the film is produced by Lost co-creator JJ Abrams and Lost exec. producer Byran Burk (also an exec. producer on Star Trek). Just like on Lost, Cloverfield is very frugal with its explanations — you are just along for the ride.
For a film with so much buzz, Cloverfield quite actually a very low budget film and it is pretty clear that almost all of what they had went into the effects. The attractive group of unknown actors put in adequate, if forgettable, performances. Most struggled with truly conveying the absolute terror that would be the case in the event of giant sea monster rampaging through town. Probably the biggest standout is Lizzy Caplan who gives her jaded Marlena character a bit more depth and surprising sympathy.
Marlena (Caplan) is having a really bad night
The thing that keeps you going most is the editing, camera work and especially the visual effects. Abrams and Reeves deliver some genuine scream out loud moments. The design of the monster is like nothing you would expect and certainly nothing you have seen ‘leaked’ online. Also the scenes of destruction throughout Manhattan, and especially during a sequence on a bridge, are entirely believable and hit almost too close to home in this age of terrorism. The run time is less than an hour and a half and Drew Goddard’s script is both tight and daring, with you never knowing which of our heroes is actually just another redshirt.
You may leave Cloverfield with as many questions as you had coming into it, but all in all it is a fun ride if you just sit back and let yourself get scared. This film is the first Bad Robot production to come out of JJ Abrams 2006 megadeal with Paramount and it proves that he and Burk can deliver the goods. Next up…a little thing called Star Trek.
Producer J.J. Abrams (kneeling, left), director Matt Reeves (standing, center) and producer Bryan Burk (kneeling, right) on the set of “Cloverfield.”
NOTE: The Trek trailer did not play with Cloverfield screening. TrekMovie.com will put up a review of that by 3:00 am Friday Morning PST