Cloverfield

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Here's my review of Cloverfield, which I saw late this afternoon. It would be fair to say I was pretty blown away by this movie. I despise "shakycam" and have never found it effective in drawing me into a film, but the execution here was flawless. I bought into it completely, and left the theater feeling both exhilarated and a little exhausted.

Cloverfield



If you're reading this review, you probably already know a few things about Cloverfield. You probably know it's shot from a first-person point of view via camcorder. You probably know that it's supposed to be "found" footage, rather than an actual film. And you probably know that it documents an attack on Manhattan by an enormous monster. But none of this really conveys the film, which flaunts convention and possesses an elegant restraint unheard of in its genre.

Cloverfield opens early in the morning, and shows us two happy young people who've just spent the night together; they are Rob (Michael Stahl-David) and Beth (Odette Yustman). It jumps forward several weeks, and we learn that Rob has taken a prestigious job in Japan, and his friends are organizing a going-away party. Rob's friend Hud is assigned the task of taping goodbyes from everyone for Rob to watch on the plane, making him our guide through the film's perils. We see only what the camcorder sees.

After the attack begins, the characters attempt to escape the city. Their escape is thwarted, and Rob receives a call from Beth, who left the party early and is injured across town. Though their relationship is tentative and unfulfilled; Rob's feelings have gone largely undeclared, and he ventures back towards the danger with several others.

The opening scenes are sure to frustrate superficial viewers who only came for the carnage. Nevertheless, they're well-acted, and they lay a foundation that pays considerable dividends in the second half of the film. Somehow, writer Drew Goddard manages to establish distinct personalities and relationships and imbue them with depth in just 20 minutes. Though the characters are a bit too pretty to qualify as genuinely realistic, the opening scenes do just enough to draw you in before the film's massive antagonist so rudely interrupts.

From that point forward, the characters spend the majority of their time struggling to survive, all the while gathering bits of information and theories about what the creature is, and where it came from. The film never gives us any direct answers to either question; it's more concerned with the effect than it is with the cause. It builds steam and piles one layer of tension on top of another as the nature of the threat comes into view and evolves.

The creature itself is neither a retread, nor particularly revolutionary. There are, after all, only so many possible designs available for such a creature, and this one is as near to being unique as one could reasonably hope.

True to the film's setup, we don't get any perfectly framed, prolonged shots of the monster. Cloverfield is determined to sell the "found footage" gimmick through to the end, and lets Hud's camcorder bear witness to a few scattered television reports to give us some wide shots of the beast. Though many films employ handheld cameras to try to immerse us in the action, most fail to situate us properly and only generate frustration. But Cloverfield makes the technique work and never lets us become too disoriented, even though it sometimes look like a bootlegged version of itself.

Director Matt Reeves seems to know that every glimpse will inevitably diminish tension, and gives us just enough to know what we're up against, though viewers will still be hard-pressed to describe it afterwards. Its most important characteristic, however, is a vague other-worldly quality that the human mind registers as simply unnatural. Whatever it is, it looks fantastic, as do all of the film's effects.

More Jaws than Deep Blue Sea, Cloverfield never gives into the temptation to expand its scope or saturate us with money shots. Despite its gimmicky format, it manages to weave a narrative through what's ultimately a series of jump cuts. It is an uncommonly daring disaster film that spends its entire runtime alternating between utter chaos, unthinkable levels of destruction, and unbearable tension.




Will your system be alright, when you dream of home tonight?
Any pictures of the real monster?
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Originally Posted by Yoda
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No, none have been officially released, and I doubt that'll change. It's just as well, really; they wouldn't do it justice, especially if they're bootlegged.

It's really not the kind of monster that has a whole lot of impact through simple photos, anyway. It's built up superbly by the film and I'm quite glad I hadn't seen it beforehand.



Very nice review Yods. I do not say that lightly and I do not say it in a "I wanna kiss your arsely" either . I have yet to see this film, and I really have been undecided on watching it in the theater. I truly hate shaky cam films. Not because I dislike the idea, it is just that my inner ear gets to me and I feel a bit sick when I watch those kind of films. Your review however has made me decide to go ahead and watch this over the weekened. I am not sure what it is: I can ride the mindbender at six flags and I can win at the spin-the-bat-on-the-forehead challanges at carnivals, but those shaky cams almost always make me sick. I hope this film is worth it.
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I hear ya'. I despise "shakycam." Hell, I even started the I. Hate. Shakycam. thread. This one wasn't too bad, though. The movements feel a bit more natural here, I suppose. And I made a point to sit a bit farther back, which probably helped.



I just know they're coming to kill me.
I just got back from the film as well; very well-made suspense thriller, that's the short review of it, at least, coming from me.

My only real disappointment was the lack of the material that was mentioned and covered in the film's viral campaign. Very brief images and such that were from the marketing scheme was in the film itself. I did my part in the viral campaign, researching and stuff, and thought I went into the film knowing more than most people. As did my father, as I had filled him in on how awesome viral marketing is and how it was used for Cloverfield's promotion. Still, coming out of the theater, I was entertained, yes, but I would've been more-so had the film incorporated what it was also marketing on the net.

However, the internet did not elude this film once it premiered. Here are some interesting tidbits discovered after the film hit theaters, which can be found here and here. Be warned, though, those links contain spoilers for those who have yet to see the film.

At any rate, good review Yoda, as expected.
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... but those shaky cams almost always make me sick. I hope this film is worth it.
This is the first ever film to make me feel a little seasick... short of IMAX that is.

It IS worth it though. I'd sit further back if I were you as Yoda suggested. I was right up front and had to close my eyes a few times and recover.



Will your system be alright, when you dream of home tonight?
This is the first ever film to make me feel a little seasick... short of IMAX that is.

It IS worth it though. I'd sit further back if I were you as Yoda suggested. I was right up front and had to close my eyes a few times and recover.
I have a MAJOR fear of Imaxs



Not really a photo. But it looks like a fairly accurate sketch. I wonder if it's an attempted recreation from someone who saw the film, or actual concept art from the production.



For those who are curious to see the monster, here is a photo of it.
That is an artist's sketch of the creature...... click here for THE ACTUAL creature in action. Or if you can't see it, I can just PM it to you.



Will your system be alright, when you dream of home tonight?
That is an artist's sketch of the creature...... click here for THE ACTUAL creature in action. Or if you can't see it, I can just PM it to you.
I saw that you sent me a PM, I took Yoda's advice about not seeing it until I see the movie, so I just deleted it



The beast's form lends itself to a sort of un-natural movement. This is so much the case that when you do see it you spend most of your time trying to make sense of it. Very well done creature.



WARNING: "Cloverfield" spoilers below
At the final few seconds of the film, particularly as the camera is fixed out to the ocean at Coney Island...If you look at the ocean, out in the distant on the right hand side, you can see “something” crash into the water at a very steep angle.


Also if you stay after the credits you will be able to hear a whisper if you listen closely.



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Splendid review, Yoda. This film warrants multiple viewings as it is obviously laden with further cues that will keep conversation going. I'd say at least half of the audience from my theater were staying all the way through the credits to try and catch something else. And I remember making note of the whisper jrs mentioned.

The beast's form lends itself to a sort of un-natural movement. This is so much the case that when you do see it you spend most of your time trying to make sense of it. Very well done creature.
And pulled off not without some difficulty, I'd imagine. It was neither too otherworldly nor too sea-creature-ish to warrant outright comparison with other predecessors in its genre. At times, it came across as insectish, almost reminiscent of the spindly, ghost-spider apparition that guarded the bedroom door late in Poltergeist (at least in the way it raised itself to its haunches a few times). It was definitely a multi-dimensional beast.

No, none have been officially released, and I doubt that'll change. It's just as well, really; they wouldn't do it justice, especially if they're bootlegged.

It's really not the kind of monster that has a whole lot of impact through simple photos, anyway. It's built up superbly by the film and I'm quite glad I hadn't seen it beforehand.
Yes. This monster is definitely better appreciated in its context and the depictions of it outside of the film do not do it justice.
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In Soviet America, you sue MPAA!
Originally Posted by Yoda
But none of this really conveys the film, which flaunts convention and possesses an elegant restraint unheard of in its genre.
Really? I am a bit confuzzled by this statement? Mainly, what genre are you in reference to? The giant monster genre? If so, The Host is a far more elegant, far more graceful, far more restrained piece of filmmaking.

Are you talking about Sci-Fi/Horror? If so (ignoring the aforementioned The Host), that is still a very loaded question. I can think of handful of films that flaunt convention and are indeed more elegant than Cloverfield. Two from last year alone: Them and The Orphanage.

That isn't to say Cloverfield is a bad film, but qualities unheard of? Not so.
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So, to those who have seen it, I have a theory to run by you...

WARNING: "Cloverfield" spoilers below
...I can't help but think there was more than one monster. I'm not referring to just the parasites; I'm thinking specifically of the monster that ate Hud. It didn't look much like the monster they carpet-bombed, to me. For one, the one they bombed was very lightly colored; almost white. It was also unbelievably massive; tall enough to reach the top of a skycraper when extended. The one that ate Hud seemed smaller; a few stories high, at most.

This would also explain why they seem to run into so much carnage wherever they go. If there's only one monster, they sure do run into it an inordinate number of times.

What do you guys think?