Review – Cloverfield | TrekMovie.com
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Review – Cloverfield January 17, 2008

by 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

Comments

1. NCC-73515 - January 17, 2008

opens here on the 31st… far too late, the trek teaser will be available by then…

2. Pragmaticus - January 17, 2008

Can’t wait to see it!

3. Captain Presley - January 17, 2008

Where is Anthony’s official trailer review?

4. Kirk, James T. - January 17, 2008

I’ll go see this movie, looks good – i’ll down load the trailer off Itunes

5. NCC-73515 - January 17, 2008

i believe the teaser will come tomorrow… i read that it was not on the cloverfield premiere…

6. AJ - January 17, 2008

I am not sure if they showed the XI teaser last night. Viewers down under have apparently seen it as opening night was today. If Anthony saw the thing, don’t we think he would offer up the goods?

7. Anthony Pascale - January 17, 2008

i have added a note…teaser did not play at the screening I went to. I will be seeing the film again just for the teaser at a midnight showing and put up a review in the wee hours of Friday morning.

8. Scott Gammans - January 17, 2008

I was looking forward to this movie long before I found out that the “Star Trek” teaser would be making its debut before the film.

9. PaoloM - January 17, 2008

February 1st in Italy. Trek teaser will not be a surprise.

10. Viking - January 17, 2008

I like the idea that anybody could buy the farm at any given time. It’s kind of anti-climactic when you’re ten minutes into something, and it’s so contrived that you’re already thinking, ‘OK this guy’s not going to die, but that guy will, they want me to think the dog was eaten, but I know he escaped and will show up at the end………’ It writes itself in your head twenty minutes in advance. The ones that mess with your head end up in my DVD library (J.J.!). :-)

11. Elrond L - January 17, 2008

We’ve been planning to see Cloverfield since the ‘mystery ad’ first popped up; I’m glad to see that the movie lives up to its hype. My daughter and a friend’s son are both off school tomorrow, so we’ll be catching a matinee show. Obviously the Trek trailer is a major, major bonus!

But after the geek-asm, I’m ready to be scared! It looks like fun.

12. TomBot2008 - January 17, 2008

durn it. “ending” not endinging… LOL! :-(

13. TomBot2008 - January 17, 2008

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Godzilla and his like; I’m intrigued enough to give this a shot… although, I can see how this movie could fall in the love it or hate it variety. :-) I’ver read enough reviews, I think I’ll make up my own mind and hopefully, either way, it’ll be a decent moviegoing experience!!!

14. Godzooky - January 17, 2008

so wot is the monster then?
An alien? The Loch Ness Monster? Godzilla?
Cluthuthhhhhuuu?
Paris Hilton after a gamma-ray irradiation?

Does the movie ever actually say?

15. Kirk's Girdle - January 17, 2008

They do not explain the monster, it simply is, and what it is is fugly.
Saw the film the other night, sans trailer, and liked the journey but felt a bit cold toward it at the end.

16. Cap'n Whatley Pike - January 17, 2008

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange æons even death may die.

17. Noleuser - January 17, 2008

I will read this review after tommorrow!

18. Mazzer - January 17, 2008

One reviewer explained the shaky-cam in this movie as follows: “It makes the Blair Witch Project look like a Ken Burns documentary”.

I wish this whole trend of MTV cuts and shaky, low quality images would end ASAP.

19. I AM THX-1138 - January 17, 2008

Still jazzed to see this flick.

20. TrekNerd - January 17, 2008

The most important question is:

Is it better than the 1998 U.S. version of Godzilla?

21. CmdrR - January 17, 2008

Seems like a rental. Or, I’ll wait 7 weeks and it’ll be on SciFi.

22. sean - January 17, 2008

#20

I’d rate a film that consists entirely of watching paint dry as better than the ’98 Godzilla.

23. Will - January 17, 2008

Just saw the teaser tonight, as I work at a movie theater so I got to watch Cloverfield. It gives one chills. I can’t wait.

24. Z - January 17, 2008

hmm…they’re late on the trailer

25. Habs2919 - January 17, 2008

*23.. Same here.. Trek is going to be so awesome!

26. blake powers - January 17, 2008

jeez,
there are no posts on this article… Looks like everyone is putting there time into the Enterprise picture posts.

27. S. John Ross - January 17, 2008

I’m still undecided about seeing it …

Plus Side: Trek Trailer, Drew Goddard. Drew. Goddard. Yes.
Negative Side: Shaky hand-cam stuff irritates the unholy f**k out of me. Protagonists shown in trailer seem unsympathetic, even awful.
Neutral: Director. Never seen any of his stuff that I know of, so no opinion yet. His Trek may well be my introduction to his work.

But … Drew Goddard. Trek Trailer. Drew Goddard. Hm.

So, I’m torn. Time to read more reviews :)

28. S. John Ross - January 18, 2008

[after checking credits]

D’oh; Abram’s not even the director of this one. So, Trek will _definitely_ be my introduction to Abrams. Everyone’s been behaving as if Cloverfield is an Abrams movie; that’s confusing to those of us trying to catch up :)

29. Charles Trotter - January 18, 2008

“Marlena (Caplan) is having a really bad night”

Ohhhh, it gets worse. ;)

30. Tanner Waterbury - January 18, 2008

Saw the midnight screening of it… IT WAS FREAKING AWESOME!!!!

31. Anon - January 18, 2008

#30: Agreed. Greatest monster movie that has ever been made. I felt the same way as some of the other commenters here about the characters: towards the end I didn’t care if they lived or died. But the rest, amazing!

32. Tanner Waterbury - January 18, 2008

@29

MUCH WORSE!!! ;)

33. Daoud - January 18, 2008

#28 Abrams is the producer and behind this film getting setup, made and done.. he’s the Roddenberry of Bad Robot…

Which really really bodes well for the future of Star Trek.

A young innovative producer with a superb staff around him….

34. S. John Ross - January 18, 2008

#33, Yeah, I did eventually notice, as noted above. :)

35. Jerry - January 18, 2008

Funny story… I got the theater at 10:30 a.m. to see the Star Trek Trailer and or by the way the movie. There was no trailer so I went to the management and was told I could see the trailer at noon in another theater. Anthony, I love your site but I thought Cloverfield was poor. I found the handy cam as irritating as the people in the movie. I usually like most movies, but this one had me checking my watch often. I actually left early so I would not miss the ST trailer in the other theater.

However, the Star Trek trailer was great. As previously stated, ti’s big, really big!

36. FlyingTigress - January 18, 2008

I just got back from seeing the teaser —

…oh, and seeing Cloverfield.

Actually, it kept me engaged for the whole movie — including a couple of scenes where I did jump in the seat a little.

The “We got a ‘bite’!” scene was one of them. The shot after the B-2 makes its run, taken from the helicopter, was another. Literally, didn’t see that coming even though I knew from the trailers about what was coming up afterwards.

Definately left a just a little to be desired, but interesting as a change of pace from the traditional monster movie of long shots of the attacking beastie, and a dead creature laying in the streets — or at the bottom of the ocean. A little like Jaws was a generation ago, where what was being left to the imagination made it a little more un-nerving.

37. Steve - January 18, 2008

Just got back from seeing it at a digital theater with a killer sound system. Really enjoyed it. The scariest monster wasn’t the big one, it was all the little ones. The one scene I thought was bad was the one with the B2 dropping dumb bombs in an urban situation. They would have used all smart bombs or laser guided missles.

Loved the Star Trek XI teaser. Takes place at the Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco. No mention of Captain April though. Wasn’t Pike the second CO?

38. ShawnP - January 18, 2008

I was thoroughly entertained by this movie, and I remained engaged in it the entire time. I loved the premise behind the movie that it was “found footage”, and I liked how the original tape cut in at times to provide that contrast between life as usual and the clearly not usual moment that they were experiencing. I will certainly be owning this movie on DVD.

39. Driver - January 18, 2008

Who is more foolish? The fool or the fool that follows?

In “Cloverfield” an incredibly stupid 20 something follows more incredibly stupid 20 somethings to search for a trapped girlfriend amid an attack in NYC by an unknown monster all the while videotaping the carnage and narrowly escaping death at every turn.

YAWN!

I was completely unmoved, unfazzed and uninterested in their peril. And so were most others in the audience by the laughs as this movie ended.

For a riveting, pulse pounding “You are there’ experience, look no further than “United 93″.

If this is what J.J. Abrams approves of as “Edge of your seat terror”, I fear for the new Star Trek film.

40. Decius is Stonn, Stonn is Decius - January 18, 2008

the party scene was unbearable. the NY times got it right today.

and oh, for 2-3 hours afterward, my head was spinning a bit and i kept salivating like i was going to throw up.

thanks, JJ.

the teaser? meh. i’m sure the VFX and set updates will be significant and even cool, but the recasting will probably take the film down like New York was in “cloverfield.”

41. Scire - January 18, 2008

GREAT MOVIE !!! Not made for the weak and timid. This is a fantastic ride that left me gasping for air… I have to see it again and again to capture all the images that flash by and leave you wondering what just happened and the ‘what if’ feeling I had hours later. If you enjoyed War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise, you will definately dig this flick…

42. Darkowski - January 19, 2008

Saw the movie last night.
Liked the Trek trailer. A little too short for my taste.

Liked Cloverfield as well. Didn’t have problems with the shaky camera. Had a few problems into ‘believing’ it though.

Seems that everywhere our little band of ‘heroes’ where, the monster was as well. When they found the love interest of Rob and started to flee, the monster was always near them. Even in the helicopter scene. Usually when you’re trying to escape something, you run in the opposite direction, getting AWAY from it. The helicopter was actually flying parallel to the monster on the ground. When they crashed, I just laughed in my head.

Another scene is right after. When the trio got out from the crash wreckage, we saw planes flying towards Manhattan where the creature presumably was, past the little group. And then we see the monster standing right in front of them! Did the military not see it?? A big-ass monster in a totally open field??? Or perhaps it was another creature…… We’ll never know, because the film ended a short time after.
I think that I came out from the movie having more questions than I had before seeing the movie lol

Other than that I really enjoyed the ride. My scariest moment was when they were in the dark subway tunnel and they saw rats all running in the same direction – away from something. Gave me shivers.
I will definitely own it on DVD.

Now I can’t wait for the second Star Trek trailer!

43. sean - January 19, 2008

Saw this last night, and I was more than pleased. The people I saw it with did get sick (funny, since I’m about the most motion sick person I’ve ever met) but they liked it despite that fact. Maybe they need to warn people it’s filmed in ‘Nauseavision’? Best monster movie I’ve seen in ages. Certainly wipes the floor with the overly cartoonish Godzilla ’98.

My favorite part of the movie was actually Lizzy Caplan. Seriously, did she fall from heaven? Prettiest eyes I’ve ever seen.

44. Mike T. - January 19, 2008

Saw Cloverfield Friday night. All I can say is WOW! I’d like to know what make the camcorder is, to survive all of that and a nuke going off and still providing useable video is amazing.

Liked the Trek teaser but would of liked more, can’t wait for the movie. Maybe Tom Cruise is going to play April? It wouldn’t take long to shoot a scene with him in the Captain’s chair and he was at the Enterprise sets a few days ago….

45. Joel - January 19, 2008

Taken in the movie twice already. Very smart movie. *claps* Can’t wait to see the Trek movie in Dec. *smile*

46. James Heaney - Wowbagger - January 19, 2008

No trailer.

I went to see Cloverfield, and no Trek trailer. Not being much of one for monster movies, I am deeply, deeply bummed.

Did anyone else have this happen to them, or did I just get unlucky?

47. steve adams - January 20, 2008

Cloverfeild kicks ass!

48. Rick - January 20, 2008

I dug it. Not your usual GIANT MONSTER flick! Yeah the characters for the most part may of been a bit shallow. But that worked for me as I felt like I was going through some of that hell in NYC that night with them! Some of their decisions might seem stupid, but I have read or have heard of some people running into danger to find someone they really care about. Especially if they know they are alive in whatever mess they might be in. Of course we all don’t react the same in crazy situations, but humans are unpredicable. But anyways cool flick, and the subway tunnel scene…man it was… Along with THE MIST what a fun time for horror/creature films!Also fun trailers HELLBOY II, IRONMAN, and some film about some giant ship being built with space travel implied.;)

BAD ROBOT is starting out strong. Sure they will have some films and shows with some flaws, but so far I am liking what I am seeing.

49. Dr. Image - January 20, 2008

Saw it last night.
Hats off to Matt and JJ. You have created a film witch thankfully breaks with the conventions of typical Hollywood fare.
I found it utterly riveting, as did most of the audience. It captures EXACTLY the feeling of utter panic and disorientation when thrust into a horrible, unknown, out-of-control situation. How do I know?
Back in ’02, my wife and I barely escaped alive from a flashover electrical fire in our home in the middle of the night. We ended up outside, barely dressed, burnt, shivering, and in shock, on Feb.14th. We lost everything. And as to the question of the camera surviving- two months later, while digging for salvageable items, I had found a compact flash card that had been literally melted into the bottom of what had been my computer keyboard. I pried it out, cleaned it up, and plugged it into a reader.
All the images were there, uncorrupted.
Also, back after 9/11, I had read a story about a photojournalist’s digital SLR which had survived the collapse of the towers. The photographer did not. Perhaps JJ & CO. were aware of this story.
All in all, the film worked. Even the humor was appropriate and character driven. The camerawork did not bother me at all- it became almost a moving impressionistic painting- all the information was there, you just had to pay attention. The monster? Just when you think you’ve seen every CGI creature, you find out you haven’t. It was utterly chilling.
The film serves to remind us that sometimes things just happen, and there are no happy endings or explanations. Thankfully though, the film strikes a perfect balance, offering enough to make it one hell of a rollercoaster ride, and a groundbreaking one at that.
-Donn

50. Thomas - January 20, 2008

This is a great movie! IT breaks all the nicely packaged moveis that have no loose ends. This movie is nothing but loose ends. It is real life, no happily ever after. A must see film!! CAN NOT WAIT TO SEE STAR TREK!!

51. Charles Trotter - January 21, 2008

……..It’s still alive…………………

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzTq4bbj9V4

52. Jeremiah - February 11, 2008

Saw cloverfield finally last night. All I can say is YAWN!! Not a scary moment to be seen. It makes me wonder if JJ might be the death of Star Trek.

53. mike dinjens - October 19, 2008

cloverfield is a great adrenaline movie but the ending of the movie is not great but lizzy caplan is pretty nice in the movie.

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