Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Countdown To Godzilla: Cloverfield Review

     Wow, it is really only 16 days until Godzilla?  It still seems so far away but we have come a long way since the Comic Con 2012 Teaser Trailer description was put up online.  Well, let's keep the reviews going to tide us over and today we're looking at the found-footage kaiju film, Cloverfield.

     The plot of Cloverfield follows the friends of family of Robert Hawkins (Micheal Stahl-David) as they throw a going away party for him as he has accepted a job promotion in Japan.  Filmed entirely from a first person perspective by his brother Jason (Mike Vogel) and his best friend Hud Platt (T.J. Miller), they also capture some tension between Rob and his long-time friend Beth MacIntyre (Odette Yustman).  After they have a bit of a fight and Beth storms off with her date, Rob feels terrible about it and before he can try to fix it a giant creature attacks the city.  Unwilling to find the "off" switch for the camera, Hud captures the carnage of New York under seige and their battle for survival.


     Much like most of the world, my first exposure to Cloverfield was the amazing teaser that was attached to the first Transformers film in 2007.  At this point, the title "Cloverfield" was merely a rumor and had not yet been attached to the film but the teaser did it's job.  What caused the explosion?  What tossed the Statue Of Liberty's head like a baseball?  Is it a new Godzilla movie?  Cthulhu?  Jesus?  The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man?  The (now defunct) viral website 1-18-08.com had viral images that I never actually did get to see but from what I've read, it left people scratching their heads more instead of giving them answers (as viral media should be).  Well, we all paced around for a few months and a new trailer was released, confirming the title.  Speculation of the monster's identity was still running rampant but any guesses anyone had weren't even close.  Finally, January 18th, 2008 rolled around so we finally got to see what the hype was about.  It was one of the most intense cinematic experiences of my life (probably in the top 3 or 5 if I had to make a list), but that was 2008.  How is it in 2014 on a 39" LED?

The cast gets rounded up by the military.

     Okay, where to start?  Given that this is a "found footage" movie, you're gonna get a lot of shaky cam.  Does this get nauseating?  When you're watching it on your TV, it's not too bad.  Maybe I'm just saying that because I've seen the movie a couple times but the shaky cam really isn't as bad as everyone makes it out to be and it helps sell the whole premise of the movie (even prompting theatre promoters to warn of potential motion sickness to viewers), much like having relatively unknown actors in the leads.  Don't think that unknowns in the lead tampers the quality of the film because they all feel like real people that you see on the streets and in your social circles and not actors.  Watching this film again, not once did I feel that I was simply watching a movie but rather watching a real event as it unfolded before my eyes.
     Watching the film, I figured that it was simply shot on location in New York with the creature and damaged buildings added on top of existing buildings via CGI.  Nope.  There were a few shots filmed on location in New York with a couple of scenes filmed in Los Angelas and the rest filmed on sound stages with green screen filling the cityscape backdrop.  However, these shots were so well done that it feels like your smackdab in the middle of New York City when "it" arrives.
Speaking of "It..."

     Okay, so then of course there's the Cloverfield monster.  Did it turn out to be any of the guesses we had?  Nope.  From what little you do see of it, it has very long forelimbs, shorter back legs, a tail long enough to slice through the Brooklyn Bridge, exterior esophogi dangling from its stomach (that according to the Cloverfield Wiki, it used to eat people and horses) and as you can tell from this shot, is really fucking bigGiven the style that the movie was shot in, you never do get a truly great look at the monster, even when Hud is only a couple of feet in front of it near the end of the film.  Thankfully, Hasbro made a 14 inch figure that shows Clover, as the crew dubbed him, in all of its glory.  This is one of the more bizarre kaiju I've seen and given some of the kaiju that have crawled out of the woodwork, that's saying something but holy crap is it effective.
     You're probably wondering where this creature comes from.  Well, according to the manga tie-in Cloverfield/Kishin, Clover is an undersea life form that was discovered by the fictional drilling company Tagruato.  However, the Kinshin story spirals into stuff that's so out of left field that it is not considered canon to the film.  Producer J.J. Abrams has denied that the creature is an alien, saying the item crashing into the sea at the end of the film is a Chimpanzill satellite, added into the film as a nod to those who followed the viral marketing.
     As if Clover wasn't enough, it also has these parasites that fall off of the creature and attack the people of New York.  They're about the size of a wolf and their bite is extremely fatal, causing the chest cavities of their victims to expand and burst, as Marlena finds out firsthand.  While Clover himself is in the film more than the parasites are, it is his smaller counterparts that provide more of the "BOO" moments in the story and they make them count, despite the fact that the CGI may not hold up as well as Clover's.

My face when Tim Hortons doesn't have my favorite donut...

     Well, I don't think there's really a whole lot else I can say about Cloverfield.  While the movie was met with fairly warm reception upon its release, I find it surprising how many people hate on the movie now.  Did we see the same movie?  Six years later and I still LOVED Cloverfield.  The acting is top notch, the shaky cam helps sell the terror and atmosphere of the film and this movie looks absolutely amazing considering it only had a budget of $25 million.  I've seen movies with quadruple (or more) the budget that this movie had and they don't look as good as this one did.  Does this mean I'd like to see a sequel?  Well, maybe but I don't know how that would work.  Would it be another found footage taken by someone else during that fateful night?  Would it be the monster attacking another city?  If so, you'd have to ignore J.J. Abrams' comment of saying that the creature is dead despite the inclusion of the cryptic "It's Still Alive" soundbite at the end of the credits.  Well, Cloverfield II is still just a rumor at this point so my perspective is this: if a sequel comes out, sure, I'll go see it but if it never happens, Cloverfield works just fine as a standalone film and I will take great pleasure revisiting it again in the future.  If you haven't seen this movie yet, you should really check it out.

     Check back in a little bit as we only have two more entries in the blog to go before the Godzilla review.  Next up will be director Gareth Edwards' Monsters, the project that helped him land the director's chair for Godzilla.

     -The Cynic


  1. I was beginning to think that I was the only one who loves this movie. Clover is a really good monster and only a baby too. If there ever was a Cloverfield II I hope we get to meet mother.

    1. Meeting the mother would be nothing short of terrifying...

    2. What will happen if its mother or adult stage is exceedingly huge enough to devour Godzilla completely & its also trying to do so?!!

    3. Isn't it also because Clover is harmless, peaceful & innocent without intention of attacking cities & hurting people while its all mankind's fault for that?!

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