So, last night I saw Cloverfield for the second time. By the end of the week I expect to see it at least twice more. It’s that good.
OK, obviously there are going to be some minor flaws in the film. Nothing’s perfect. Especially in the horrid quagmire of commercial filmmaking called Hollywood. But, what producer JJ Abrams and his director and writer Matt Reeves and Drew Goddard (who honestly don’t get enough of the press love that they so clearly deserve) have concocted is a miracle of popcorn moviemaking out of what could have been a big blockbuster mess. The film zips by and a breakneck pace making all the right decisions along the way right up until the heartbreaking end which I’ll speak about later.
For those of you who have been living in the middle of the Antarctic watching penguins tapdance for the better part of a year, we’ll update you. The story concerns a young man named Rob Hawkins, who gets a major promotion and is leaving for Japan in a few days. His brother and friends throw a surprise going-away party for him and in the midst of the celebration is when the movie’s events start going to hell. First, a giant earthquake, r something, rocks the city. Then, we find out that something has landed in the middle of the city and is proceeding to turn it into its personal little sandbox. The rest of the movie concerns Rob’s attempts to get to his one true love before being evacuated from the city. His friends, obviously, go along for the ride. There wouldn’t be a movie otherwise, right?
From that simple premise we, as the audience, tag along as these friends experience everything one might expect from a mysterious, possibly terrorist attack on a big city. The filming technique of using a home video camera and watching the proceedings from basically a first-person perspective make the shocks and terror much more palpable. It’s to the writer’s credit that they did not fall into the Blair Witch trap of letting the movie completely lapse into a coma in between shocks. There are no long, interminable shots of people’s skin pores as they contemplate the situation they have put themselves in. The main scenario in Cloverfield lends itself to a quicker pace anyhow. There’s not much time to sit around and wait for something to happen when the military is shooting thousands of rounds and missiles at a giant monster trolling the streets right around the corner from you. The home video angle also allows for a subtle message of how technology might keep us at a distance from even the most immediate dangers. Hud, the main character’s best friend, takes the camera for most of the movie and his insistence in “documenting” everything that happens gets him close to death several times in the movie, and SPOILER AHEAD…
ultimately brings his comeuppance at the end of the film when he goes back for the camera and ends up in the giant monster’s insides.
The decision to keep the monster under wraps until the movie came out was brilliant. As a movie geek, I wasn’t expecting much going into this one. I figured that the moment I saw the giant lumbering through NY that that would be the movie and there was nothing more to see. Boy, was I wrong. I loved how little details about the thing leaked at different points as the video camera lingers on a news story or a TV showing footage of the monster in closeup. Bringing in the little baby ones was not the “baby Godzillas”-type disaster I thought it might be at the beginning. There’s something to be said for the fact that for most of the movie the monster is in the background. It’s never right in their faces until near the end. All I can say is I will never look down a subway tunnel the same way again.
One more thing on the monster. I immediately stayed for the credits at the end of the movie. I needed to know the name of the creature designer, the brilliant mind that came up with the idea for this massive city-leveller. That guy’s name happens to be Neville Page and his website looks like it might have just gone up, but the gallery is definitely worth a look. I can’t wait to see what he does with his other future projects such as The Hulk 2, Watchmen, and Avatar. The link is right here.
The ending was the only problem I had with the movie as a whole. MORE SPOILERS…
I understand the filmmakers having to end the arc they started with the two main characters, Rob and Beth. Going from breakup to realization of love and rescuing his one true love, to finality in the end, I understand the need to go back there and sew things up nice and tight. The problem I had was that as soon as Hud oes back for the camera and gets eaten, the idea that Rob would go back and pick up the camera and keep filming threw me way out of the reality of the film’s world. In those last few minutes I kept thinking, no matter how loyal I was to my friend, I wouldn’t go back for the camera. I’d try to get the hell away from there. As futile as that plan would’ve been considering the circumstances the movie puts them in at the end, I still would’ve done that. I do have to say though, that after all that, I did like the sappy end as a scene unto itself. The tragedy of these two coming back together just to die in the end was hard to take the first time and a little easier the second time I saw it.
OK, I’m a fool romantic, so go ahead and shoot me. Or feed me to a giant alien monster.
OK, all pau.