Sunday, May 04, 2008

Cloverfield

I just finally got around to seeing Cloverfield, the shaky-cam monster movie from JJ Abrams that was released in January. I'm glad I waited. I would have been quite annoyed if I had to spend 20 bucks on this movie. The quick synopsis is that while celebrating a friend's imminent departure for Japan (hur hur Japan hur hur Godzilla), a monster attacks the city and some of the friends try to find their way out of the city while one of them records it with a video camera. You're in for a lot of shaky cam action and not being able to see the monster a whit through the entire film, though you do get plenty of dark scenes and slight glimpses of what might be the creature. There's not much in the answering of what or why during the film, as it's purely from the viewpoint of the survivors. Unfortunately, they're not worth caring about and don't really draw much interest save for the shots they try to get of the monster.

JJ Abrams had said he wanted to create an iconic monster and an insane experience. He and the director fail at both, as it's hardly possible to create an icon that you never get a clear glimpse of, unless you go to the Hasbrotoyshop.com site where they have a picture so you can see what the hell the point of the movie was. Also, shaky camera work doesn't really translate into insane. It mainly just gives people vertigo and annoys them. I was fairly annoyed at the first several minutes of it and it didn't get much better from there. Apparently there's a sequel in the works too, so we might see more badly shot footage from the same night. Yeehaa.

I understand what they were trying to do, focusing on the surivors rather than the scientists and army men deployed. It wasn't handled in an effective way, though, and that hurt the film. You can focus on survivors and not rely on the shaky cam technique. For a movie that does this, look at The Host, a brilliant Korean monster movie. In that film, a man's daughter is taken by a monster that appears and rampages all in the first several minutes. The family is torn and the focus of the film is on them as they try to find the monster and the daughter while she in turn tries to escape from the monster's clutches.

All in all, if you're looking for a great monster movie, you'll have to look elsewhere, as the monster in this film, even at the big reveal at the end, is almost nonexistent. It lacks the dynamic power of a Godzilla film and the shock of an appearance of the creature as well. People don't go to see monster films because of the characters. They want to see a good and scary monster. The characters are there to help the film along. In Cloverfield, neither happens and in the end, you're glad it's only an hour and half you spent on it all.

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