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Movie: Cloverfield = Monstertastic

The danger with hyping up a movie to the extent that clever marketing (and unrestrained nerd speculation) can, is that there is simply no way that the end result can live up to the fervour. J.J.Abrams it seems, is at the forefront of generating such fervour, be it for his television ventures or the latest big screen project to have his name associated with it: Cloverfield.

Cloverfield, for all its hype, is a giant budget, giant monster, B-movie. End of story. But, because I said “End of story” and not “End of another pointless EOL post”, I’ll continue to drone on for a few hundred more ill chosen words.

It’s virtually impossible to spoil this movie, because absolutely NOTHING is explained in it. In a way, it’s extremely refreshing. In a different way, it’s just as infuriating as LOST became before they realised that viewers were losing interest (because, without answers, the series felt as though it was going nowhere). Fortunately for Cloverfield the fact that they spend no time at all explaining things does very little to hurt the film, in fact it enhances it.

While in the cinema I was reminded of a comment by one of the makers of the 1990 B-movie creature-feature TREMORS. They felt that there was no need to explain the origin of the creatures (named graboids) during the course of the film, because the characters would most likely not have time to figure it out themselves – better to have them (the characters) speculate on their pursuers origin while they busy themselves with the task of surviving. Cloverfield writer Drew Goddard (LOST, ALIAS, ANGEL, BUFFY) clearly had the same thought.

Removing the need for explanation also removed the need for the characters to be somehow involved in the discovery of the creature or in the attempts to end its building-levelling-bossanova through New York City. In other words, get out your guilty pleasure copy of 1998’s GODZILLA and choose a scene in which the G to the Z is smashing up the place. Hit pause and choose a random extra from the background — someone who, at best, will appear in the credits as “Man running for his life”. Cloverfield isn’t about Matthew Broderick, it’s about that guy and his friends trying to survive as a giant monster renovates their district.

For me the most concerning thing going in, was the fact that the movie takes place ENTIRELY from the persecutive of a single hand-held video camera. What starts as a group of friends attempting to document a mate’s going away party, ends up being front line coverage of the group’s attempts to make it out of New York alive. And while this linear POV (Point of View) style film making usually leaves little room for subplots and alternate views, director Matt Reeves (FELICITY, THE PALLBEARER) uses a simple, but extremely effective premise to allow such elements to enter the film, without removing the viewer from the experience.

In looking for an analogy today Morgs and I decided that Cloverfield is a ‘Good Chinese Take-away’ meal of a movie. If you let yourself, you’ll really enjoy it – but chances are that it wont stay with you for too long after seeing it.

Oh, and those of you who get a little motion sick may want to take a brown paper bag with you – that ‘hand-held’ technique that I mentioned before can get a little rough at times… kinda like Chinese Take-away can too.

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