Monday, January 12, 2009


I don't intend to turn my blog into a movie review blog. I don't watch that many movies, and the movies I watch are usually older and have already been covered. But, I watched Cloverfield today and have a couple of things to say about it.

Cloverfield, benign-sounding title notwithstanding, is a Godzilla movie. It's got computer generated images and a very hip cinema verité technique, but it's a Godzilla movie.

The main characters are twenty-somethings, and the action begins at a surprise party for Rob, who is being sent to Japan (Japan? Get it? An inside reference to Godzilla!) for his job. We have a clue--based on a video he made of the encounter--that at an earlier time he and his longtime friend, Beth, had broken through the fourth wall of their relationship and become intimate. As the story progresses, cleverly, in bits and pieces, we find that Rob didn't know how to handle the intimacy, so afterwards didn't call Beth. Tsk tsk. Isn't that just like a guy? Afraid of commitment. There's no explanation as to why she didn't call him.

Beth and Rob's relationship is the subplot that propels the action of the main characters. As everyone is running away from the attack of the monster, Rob and his friends make their way against the tide of evacuees to find Beth, who is trapped in her apartment. The suspense comes from the group of four encountering junior size monsters (parasites) in a subway tunnel, the rampaging 350-foot Godzilla-monster, and getting into Beth's building. She lives on the 39th floor, and her apartment building is leaning over, Tower of Pisa style, against another building.

All of this is told in a POV video style, as Rob's friend Hud handles the camera to "document" the attack. I think the video style of the movie may have hurt the box office--that and its awful title, Cloverfield--because in some of the reviews I read people left the theater with motion sickness. That didn't bother me with the DVD on my regular TV screen. It could be because the screen was a size that was manageable for my brain, not overwhelmed by hugeness and herky-jerky activity. I'm sure my wife and I would both need to take Dramamine before seeing this movie in a theater. (Hmmm. That could've been a gimmick. Free Dramamine to everyone who buys a ticket!)

The video simulation gave the special effects guys problems because they had to match their effects to a hand held camera. I'm amazed that they did it so well. I was also surprised that it was filmed in Los Angeles and not New York, because the special effects were so good I was convinced the movie was filmed in Manhattan.

The trailer for the movie that had everyone excited showed the Stature of Liberty being beheaded and the head ending up on the street. That was an extremely well-done and dramatic bit of business. Some of the damage in the movie was directly inspired by the attack of 9/11. The images seem very familiar to us all: people running in front of a fast-moving dust cloud, people who couldn't get out of the way covered in dust. Collapsing buildings. It is just 9/11 intensified. After all, after the incredible and horrifying events of that day, how could a filmmaker hope to compete except to make it bigger?

The young people in the movie are an attractive and talented cast, who are all unknown to me.

I can recommend Cloverfield if you accept it as a very slick production made to look non-slick, and that at its heart it's a remake of an old Japanese monster movie. The monster in Cloverfield isn't a guy in a rubber suit stomping through a miniature city like in the original, but that's what I thought of while I watched the movie.

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