So when I first saw the teaser trailer for an untitled film running before Transformers last summer it immediately caught my interest. A little bit of online intelligence gathering revealed that this was code named “Cloverfield” and indeed was a giant monster rampaging through New York movie.
Further, it would be told from the perspective of the victims on the ground – you know, those anonymous innocents who end up squeezed between Godzilla’s toes. The first reviews hailed it as a high concept film that combined Godzilla (which I love) with The Blair Witch Project (which I loathed).
With that in mind, I brought along my handy air sickness bag.
I liked Cloverfield in the same respect that I like hot popcorn – it is tasty, but as a steady diet, unsatisfying.
First of all, for the concept to really work you have to love and care about the characters and I didn’t. They are mostly the same thinly defined underwear models that populate television shows today – all style and no dimension.
So do I really care if they get stomped or eaten? Not really.
Still they are likable enough, unlike their counterparts in The Blair Witch Project who were annoying and stupid to the point where I was actively cheering on the Witch.
The Cloverfield posse in contrast at least stay out of the way and allow us to experience a giant monster attack as if it were on YouTube.
The monster itself is shown only in shaky glimpses just enough to be effectively scary without looking plastic and stupid. We have no explanation of where he came from or just what his motivations are for eating New York – though I suspect that he probably got the latest editions of the Zagat and Michelin Guides and decided that New York was a great place to get a good meal.
And there are moments of genuine tension in Cloverfield, especially in scenes involving the subway and on the roof of a toppled high-rise. There are also a few moments near the beginning of the film that evoke disturbing remembrance of 9/11.
When the film was over I listened carefully to the buzz in the theater which seemed to be split between those who thought that it was “awesome” and those who just felt letdown. I fall in between. I like the fact that the film doesn’t explain a lot which allows you to draw your own conclusions, however, I would have enjoyed it more if there had been a little more monster attacks action.
And, just to be cute, I would rate Cloverfield as less than Cleverfield, but more than Cloverfailed.