Had Michael Bay made this monster movie, we would have had the slow motion shots of the pilots walking toward their jets before attacking a monster whose design would have looked good on your toy shelves.
Had most other producers made “Cloverfield,” we would have learned why a monster chose to attack New York City … it was a Japanese experiment gone completely wrong, of course. The ending would have been the monster’s final breath before finally succumbing to our heroes’ brave attacks.
But I wouldn’t have liked any of these movies.
With J.J. Abrham’s (the man who brought us “Lost”) version of “Cloverfield,” you get a monster movie told through the eyes of the men and women in the middle of the chaos. You get no backstory, because our protagonists have no idea what the hell is going on. And why would they?
Your glimpses of the monster are seen on TVs in windows, or from quick shots through the camera as these people run for their lives. The Army battles are only there because these Manhattanites get caught in the middle. Your only “real” good look at the monster comes toward the end, and the build-up is so exciting, so well done that the pay off is everything you’d hoped it would be.
This monster is scarier than any Godzilla, King Kong or alien could dream of being, because your seeing it from the perspective of the people whose lives are being destroyed … for no reason.
Many reviews have called “Cloverfield” a “Blair Witch meets Godzilla” feature because of the dizzying handheld camera you must endure for the entire 80-plus minutes. Yes, the camera work may not be for the weak-stomached, but had this thing gone two hours, it might have become a big distraction.
I say “Cloverfield” is more “Alien meets How I Met Your Mother.” Your cast is a group of 20-something Manhattanites with nice jobs, nice apartments and nice clothes. The going-away party for Rob is caught on film by his friend Hud, the same film that you learn in the movie’s first minute is now owned by the government. We learn at the party that Rob, who’s taking a job in Japan, is heart-broken because his ex-girlfriend has brought another guy to the party. But before this becomes “Days of our Lives,” the first explosion is heard, and when the party heads to the roof to see what’s going on (some wonder if it’s another terrorist attack), they begin to see the carnage. When they head to the street for “safety,” you see the now-iconic shot of the Statue of Liberty’s head rolling down the street.
Instead of the movie being about a monster ripping up NYC, however, your plot is Rob, his brother Jason, Hud and friends Marlena and Lily defying the Army’s request that they evacuate to head into the chaos to find Beth.
Along the way, they have close encounters with the monster and the hideous parasites that fall from its body and devour people on the ground. One of the scariest scenes I’ve witnessed in a long time happens in a dark subway tunnel. You’ll know it when it happens … it beats anything “The Mist,” “Saw,” or the hundreds of other modern-day horror movies could throw at you.
“Cloverfield” is a movie I’ve been waiting months for ever since I saw the first teaser before the God-awful “Transformers.” I wasn’t disappointed.
I love the first-person account of the disaster, as it mirrors the dozens of hand-held accounts I’ve seen of Sept. 11. There’s nothing scarier than being a part of something like this and not knowing why it’s happening. That the film gives you no explanation of the monster’s origin or purpose is brilliant. I hope we never find out (though watch the background in the film’s final minutes when it shows footage from the ferris wheel … it may be a clue).It wasn’t a perfect movie, but it never lulled and it was a unique experience.
That’s why it’s getting my highest rating since I’ve started this blog (tied with Superbad), four and a half out of five stars.
My rating: ****1/2 out of 5 stars