In our first two reviews for the widely talked about Cloverfield (clips/interviews), we ranted about how much we really enjoyed the film and how it took us back to a time when we were young again, now David Harley has chimed in with his opinion. His thoughts? Dead on with ours – read on for his thoughts and feel free to write your reviews below.
Review by: David Harley
Score: 4/5 Skulls
Walking into CLOVERFIELD, I thought I was going to hate it. But looking back, I wasn’t always this pessimistic about the film. When I saw Transformers back in July, the trailer (then just titled 01-18-08) got me excited. I missed the giant monster genre that Roland Emmerich destroyed a decade ago with his Godzilla remake and I have really fond memories of watching Kaiju movies when I was a kid. Gamera, Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, all that fun stuff.
The viral marketing campaign initially had me intrigued. In fact, the marketing they did on this film qualifies whoever came up with it as a genius. I’ve never seen people so hooked on doing puzzles and finding secret websites, anything to get a glimpse of this illusive new beast that was being hyped out the ass by JJ Abrams himself. All that hyperbole doesn’t amount to much when it’s coming from the best mediocre television-turned-film director though. Granted, he wasn’t directing the film but his input into it was, I’m sure, extremely staggering.
Once I realized that all this marketing was just going to leave me running in circles, looking for a picture of the creature that wasn’t going to show up anywhere before it hit the screen or answers as to where it came from, I just stopped caring. I mean, at the end of the day, this was a monster movie being released in January. And let’s face it; anything released in January through February is usually garbage. Yet, for some reason, with all this working against it, I still had to see it, if only so that I could actually see the damn monster rather just talking about wanting to see it.
As I write this now, I am eating my words in huge, heaping spoonfuls.
Rob (Michael Stahl-David) is moving to Japan for a job and has a going away party thrown in his honor. During these first twenty minutes, we’re given a (insert name of loathed teenage prime time drama here) plot involving Rob, his friend Beth (played by Odette Yustman, who is absolutely gorgeous) and their secret of having slept together. The film comes to a standstill here, as the cast of beautiful 20-something year olds hash out their ‘drama’, while we’re left wondering when the hell the monster is going to show itself. And then…Boom! The monster attacks and Rob is left with a choice: either get the hell out of Dodge or risk his life rescuing Beth, who is trapped in her apartment on the other side of NYC. And from then on, the film doesn’t linger or let up until credits roll.
The documentary style, while a relatively simple idea, really works for this film. Since CLOVERFIELD is essentially told from a first-person point of view, I found myself buying into everything the film threw at me. The huge monster, the environments, everything. Kudos to whoever built the demolished sets and bridge. It looks like it was a pain but you managed to pull it off wonderfully. Seriously, you should win an Oscar and no, I’m not kidding.
Well, I bought almost everything. Hud (T.J. Miller), whose lens we see the entire film through, never manages to be a horrendously awful cinematographer. I want to remind you that this guy is trekking through rubble, dodging a giant behemoth destroying the city and dealing with other unpleasantries. Sure, he drops the camera once or twice but really, he should be doing it a lot more and he should be getting some really awful shots. Yet, he never really does. Point being, you never really get the sense that it is actually this average guy shooting the film, rather than a professional documentary cinematographer. Also, and I know a lot of you are really going to think I’m grasping at straws here, there is very little swearing in this movie. This is a problem because, I’m sorry, a normal person would be swearing up a storm. I find it impossible that no one had the notion to drop an f-bomb anywhere during the insanity that occurs during the film.
I don’t even know how to describe this monster because anything I could say wouldn’t do it justice. It’s huge, it’s yellow/tan and it’s angry. It’s Host-esque, yet it’s not at the same time. I think a lot of the appeal the monster has for me was the mystery surrounding it. All of those origin theories that surfaced before the movie mean nothing because the film presents you with no explanation for any of it and I really love that. I guess, in a way, its disappointing that all of that Slusho marketing really has nothing to do with the monster or the film itself (Though, one character does wear a Slusho shirt and I’m theorizing that Rob’s job in Japan is with Slusho) but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. The way I feel about the monster is like how I feel about my TV: I don’t know or care how it works, I just want to know that it does.
Of course, all good monster movies aren’t really about the monster at all. When Godzilla came out, it was Japan’s allegory for Hiroshima. CLOVERFIELD is obviously ours to 9/11 and, in all honesty, it does a better job of conveying those feelings and emotions we have about that infamous day than any of the straight forward films that tackle the subject.
The whole creative team really pulled through. Screenwriter Drew Goddard managed to write a familiar story with emotional heft and some great intentionally funny moments. Not to mention, he keeps it very tight and personal at a slim running time of 74 minutes. Matt Reeves, who might as well be considered a new director (I don’t think anyone saw The Pallbearer… though people were into Felicity at one point or another), delivers a fast-paced and relentless extravaganza that single-handedly breathes new life into the giant monster genre. I’m even going to put myself out on the line and call it an event film. It’s the most enjoyable exercise in bedlam I’ve seen in years. JJ Abrams, I salute you for helping create something I can get behind completely.