10 Reasons Why Cloverfield Lives Up To The Hype
If you listened to yesterday's podcast, you know that I was lucky enough to check out a preview screening of Cloverfield. Did it live up to the hype? Damn right it did. Here are ten reasons why...(MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD)
10. It's not another American version of Godzilla. (Thank God!)
Let's get this out of the way first. This movie is not 1998's Hollywood version of Godzilla. Nor is it the movie that Godzilla should've been. Really, aside from the fact that both films feature a gigantic creature thrashing about New York, they're so different in style and intent that any comparisons beyond that should be immediately disregarded. In other words, forget Godzilla. That movie sucked. Cloverfield, meanwhile, is something different entirely, and warrants all the hype it's gotten thus far.
9. The expected "problems" are not problems.
Not unlike other hyped-up films that have been released in the past, Cloverfield has had plenty of naysayers to go along with all those that have remained hopeful and optimistic. Question is, how many of the potential problems being discussed (the runtime, PG-13 rating, shaky cam, etc.) are actual problems?
Truth be told, none.
First off, the relatively short 85-minute runtime works perfectly considering what type of film this is. Since the "movie" is basically the recovered footage off the tape found in Central Park, it wouldn't make sense for one of the characters to put in a new tape halfway through, which is basically the only way the filmmakers could've extended things.
Secondly, the PG-13 rating never poses a problem. This is not an excessively gory movie, but some of the things that happen are certainly gruesome enough to make your mind feel like it is. The fact that you don't see every little detail in close-up actually makes it even more effective. And intense. Really goddamn intense.
Saving the most prominent for last, there's the shaky cam. OK, I'm not gonna lie, it does take a little getting used to during the early sequences. But once you become invested in the film, the handheld style solidifies itself as a vital part of what the whole situation so powerful and realistic. Whereas some movies use shaky cam as a way to hide poor CGI or feign intensity, Cloverfield uses it because, without it, it wouldn't look believable. Without it, the movie would've failed.
Don't know Hud? Don't worry, you will. He's the guy holding the camera. He's also one of the best things about Cloverfield.
In total, there are about 6 "main" characters in the film. A couple of them are worthless, and you won't really care about them living or dying, but the others are OK. And then there's Hud. Ah, Hud. I love Hud. He's kind of a doofus, but a likable, funny doofus. Any compassion you have for these characters can probably be attributed to him. Really, the only reason to dislike him is that he sometimes has a problem focusing the camera on what the audience wants to see. C'mon Hud, the monster's that way! Stop looking at your friends to make sure they're alive! What the hell are you, a decent human being!?
7. The monster.
I know a lot of this film's hype has been in response to the ambiguity of the monster and what it looks like, so the fact that I'm only ranking it at #7 may worry some people. Don't let it. The monster is as cool a monster as most people could've asked for. If you were to ask me to describe it, I wouldn't be able to. The best analogy I can think of is to say it's a mix between the creature from The Host, a sloth, and a praying mantis. Sound weird? Well, it should, because it is.
But, how much of it do you get to see? The short answer: Enough. No, you don't get a dozen full-on wide shots of it. In order to obtain a sense of realism, the monster is seen exactly as you would see it were you to film it with a video camera at varying distances while it gets blasted with rockets and marches through the city. That said, you do see the thing a lot, partially obscured though it may be. And there's one shot in particular that should satisfy all those desperate for one perfectly angled look at the monster.
6. The parasites.
Who would've thought these little bastards would be even cooler than the actual monster? Without spoiling anything, let me just say that the best sequence in the film is without a doubt a credit to these giant scampering bed bugs, dropping off the monster and wreaking havoc whenever the possibility of safety seems evident. Once again, I'm at a loss for words as how to describe them, so I'll leave it at this: they're thin, creepy, spider-like, and enjoy biting.
5. It's something new.
You could argue this film isn't new. Or unique. Or fresh. After all, The Blair Witch Project came out almost ten years ago. This is practically the same movie, but with a monster... right?
No, it's not. I won't argue that they both share the same basic concept, nor will I argue that Cloverfield's existence probably owes a lot of The Blair Witch, but there are some huge differences between the two films. The main one being, this one has a much more massive scale, and a hefty budget to match. Does that necessarily make the movie good? Of course not. But it's awesome to finally see Hollywood producing a relatively big budget action film that's so immensely different than the onslaught of crap that normally ends up in theaters.
In the same way I encouraged everybody to check out Grindhouse when it hit cinemas (which hardly anybody did), I recommend you all go support Cloverfield. If this movie does well, we're one step closer to convincing studios that not all moviegoers want to watch the same generic garbage everyone's become so accustomed to. And believe me when I say, Cloverfield is different than any monster movie you've ever seen before. It redefines the genre. In some ways, it redefines film itself.
4. Blockbuster, or independent?
It's not hard to find big scale action blockbusters. Hollywood spews out those by the truckload. And if you know where to look, it's just as easy to find intimate, character-driven indie films. But both of them together? That's rare. Not many filmmakers know how to combine the two. Matt Reeves, the director of Cloverfield, clearly does. And that's what makes this movie so interesting. It has all the intimacy you're used to seeing in non-studio productions, but there just happens to be a giant monster and his creepy-crawly minions in the background causing undue mayhem.
3. It feels real.
You know the concept behind Cloverfield by now. It's a faux-documentary(ish) look at a monster attack in New York. What I wasn't sure of though was just how far they were going to take the "realism" aspect of the film. To answer that, they take it all the way. From start to finish, the film is presented as a recovered, unaltered tape following the characters in question. With the exception of a "Government Property" tag at the beginning and some static-y credits at the end, that's all there is. We see footage of a couple of the characters before the party, during the party (when the initial attack happens), and all the shit that goes down afterwards. We also see some brief clips of a previous recording, since the tape is being reused.
I say all this in an attempt to convey just how authentic the film is in presentation, or at least would be were it not relating to a monster attack. The characters talk like people talk, the choices they make are (for the most part) very believable, and there's no music or editing outside what the characters listen to at the party and when Hud presses "start" and "stop" on the camera. It's pretty damn awesome.
2. It's not just a movie, it's an experience.
You can't help but think while watching Cloverfield that you're only witnessing one piece of the puzzle. It's not telling you everything there is to know about the attacks. It's strictly played from the perspective of the characters, filming what's happening as it goes down. The audience only knows as much as they do. There's an ambiguity present, and it makes you realize this thing is way bigger than just what these characters are experiencing. But because you're experiencing it right along with them, it makes the whole thing so much more compelling. You don't feel like you're watching a movie. You feel like you're watching a home movie of your friends... with them being attacked by monsters.
1. It delivers on everything it promised.
I honestly can't imagine anybody being disappointed by this film. It delivers on exactly what the trailers promised. It's exactly the movie people were hoping for. And my God do I love it. See it this Friday, and you will too.
To hear more about the film, stay tuned for our special "Cloverfield" podcast episode of The Watchers. In the meantime, you can subscribe to the podcast by using this link in your iTunes or podcast application. (For direct mp3 downloads, go here for episode 1 and here for episode 2).
[This post has been cross-posted at AlwaysWatching.org]