I feel it is now time to address this cinematic disaster officially and publicly. Let me start from the beginning. As most movie goers who followed in anticipation the viral campaign that lead up to January 18th, 2008, or as I used to call the film: 1/18/08, I first saw it at Transformers opening day (great film by the way).
Cloverfield had a very enticing teaser trailer.
In this teaser they revealed nothing in regards to the plot, scenario, or even the name. A very clever ploy putting it in front of one of the most anticipated films from the summer. So as to be expected the internet community came together to solve the puzzle that was the untitled J.J. Abrams project.
Now I’ll be honest somewhere down the line I did lose interest in the film, probably as the semester started and I had other things to focus on other than anticipating this film but still I did happen to attend the midnight showing here in St. Louis. Going into the film I had this idea that it was Blair Witch (which I never saw) combined with Godzilla, but actually good. Well it was that last part that was mostly not true. The premise is that combination however, we are given the entire story through the lens of a hand-held camera that conveniently is turned on only at the good parts, so we skip all that boring walking around and figuring out what to do stuff that one would normally focus on in such a crisis situation. But what we are most lucky for is that they actually decided to bring the camera with them, I mean could you imagine how bad this movie would be if they just left the camera behind, or if the first character to die was the one with the camera, I mean man are they lucky that he happened to die in the last scene.
Anyway it was a disappointment and why, you ask? Because it was exactly what you would expect from the trailer except in the movie you actually see the monster.
But let me list some pros first.
They don’t waste time explaining where this creature comes from, I like that.
We aren’t seeing it from the point of view of the president or the hero who blows up the alien ship with a nuke at the end with the fat lady. (Though I do love that movie I was happy to see a monster attack from solely the point of view of the everyday person.)
The monster picked my city. (One saving grace to this film was seeing the Time Warner Center and watching them defy gravity and scale one tower to get to the other)
The prerelease hype. scavenging the internet for information was not a boring task.
Last pro: with an uncritical, no expectation attitude this is a fun ride, well that is if you aren’t like my friend and don’t get sick from the shaking, and I mean shaking, camera.
So as is expected the dialog is shitty and unrealistic for people who’d really be in this situation. And the only reason I compare it to reality, which is not something I’d typically do with a monster movie, is that I feel that is what they were going for. They were trying to make this as real as possible where from the moment it starts attacking we are seeing the attack from a point of view that scares us because it is supposed to be realistic and close to home. I know that the Guardian has suggested that this film represents America’s coming to terms with 9/11. While I strongly disagree with that I do see the connection, it is very probable that Abrams is looking to profit off our new found fear of sudden chaos. Does this film represent our coming to terms with the lessons from 9/11, that we need to be vigilant against such chaotic abrupt forces? Well I don’t want to engage in a political debate but I don’t see 9/11 that way. I see it much more reflective of a unique situation between America’s perceived involvement in the Middle East and our actual intent. This move has not convinced me that I when throwing parties in my apartment I need to have ready the emergency plan. But then again, I know many people who went out and bought duck tape and plastic to seal themselves in should a chemical attack occur. The problem with this analogy is that it makes the attackers inhuman, and so by doing removing the act from the human realm, something I hear far too much about Nazi Germany. 9/11 was not a monster attack, it was a human attack. That fact cannot be ignored, when it is it allows us to believe it is unavoidable, now don’t mistake me I don’t mean to say that we could have prevented 9/11, perhaps we could have, but that is all together irrelevant now that it has happened. By unavoidable I mean to say that it removes us from thinking about it in human terms, and thus allows us to forgo that crucial step of trying to understand why it occurred. Why did an entire nation rally behind the idea of exterminating an entire culture? This was a human act as is 9/11, as such we need to understand the why, and not brush it off as some sort of crazy fundamentalist action, even if it is just that. That crazy action can occur again, we can commit it, and in fact one could argue that the death toll we have procured in Iraq of Iraqi civilians is equivalent. Like I said I have no interest in getting in a political debate here, the only reason I bring this up is because Cloverfield shouldn’t be a political message.
In all I was expecting more from this film, to me it was all too sudden and frankly their actions were too unrealistic. No New Yorker would seek refuge in the subway as a means to go to the monster and with such explosions occurring due to a monster on the loose would we really be using the Brooklyn Bridge to escape? And WHY did that monster go after them? There are millions of people in New York and yet it singled them out at least twice if not multiple times.
But again this is me being critical, I guess my biggest problem with it was that we knew it was a giant monster right away which to me just seems too fake to accept, I guess I was hoping it wouldn’t be another Godzilla in the end. But like I said without a critical view this was one hell of a ride and I did enjoy the suspense and special effects. I do not believe this to be some sort of analogy for 9/11 as I don’t see my interest in it being increased since the time Godzilla or Independence Day came out.
The ending note is this: When a big monster attacks, don’t take a bridge, the water is swim-able and that is what you should do. If you choose to stay on the island, then don’t go in the subway or in any big buildings that look attractive for knocking down. And what ever you do, do not get bit by one of the little ones.