Thursday, January 31, 2008

HC: Cloverfield (ALL spoilers!)

Yesterday my almost-16-year-old son called me from school to ask if we could go see Cloverfield, which he already saw and wanted me to see. You know, when your almost-16-year-old son calls and asks you to spend time with him, you go!

Well, I loved it. It's a 1950s monster movie updated with 2008 doodads, and done beautifully. It's Godzilla plus War of the Worlds (the new versions of each) combined with the Blair Witch Project. It's visceral, exciting, quick-paced, short, and clever. It's the most "you are there" monster film I've ever seen. Yes, the second 15-minutes are eerily, disturbingly reminiscent of 9/11, but the film’s creators quickly reassure the audience that this isn’t a terrorist movie, it’s a monster movie. But I’m getting a head of myself.

The movie spends the first 15 minutes attempting to give you a reason to care about the people who will one-by-one be killed off during the rest of the movie. The good-looking cast was unknown to me. All yuppie white people with not very huge problems. Boy A slept with Girl B, but he’s moving to Japan to take a vice president job of some company blah blah blah. The film is all hand-held camera work done by a likable and not too bright guy named Hud (short for Hudson). He’s told at the going away party for Boy A (I think his name was Robert) that it’s his job to document the whole thing. He takes this job seriously, and continues to do so—unrealistically, ridiculously, but conveniently for us—throughout the whole film. Hey, what do I know? Perhaps if the head of the Statue of Liberty landed on my street and I had a camera in my hand, perhaps I’d never let go of that camera, even while I was running through the streets of Manhattan, being chased by a…a…what the heck is that thing? Maybe the camera was Hud’s security blanket. Maybe he felt safer confronting the horror from behind an eyepiece.

So…what the heck is that thing? We see teensy glimpses of it through the smoke, jumpy camera work, from far away. What is it? If you’re a big monster fan, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I loved it. I’ll say no more.

The monster in Cloverfield is the wave in the Poseidon Adventure; the earthquake in Earthquake; Godzilla in Godzilla. I think I’ll add Jaws to the Godzilla plus War of the Worlds plus Blair Witch equation above. And perhaps the T-Rex in Jurassic Park. Okay, so maybe the Cloverfield premise isn’t terribly original, but the way it’s presented is. I’m the kind of person who gets dizzy if I turn around too fast, and motion sickness is an unpleasant part of my life; however, I didn’t get nauseated by the camera work in Cloverfield. It got a little bit annoying here and there, but not much. And it was used really well, like, “Did I just see what I think I saw?” The whole “what was that?” aspect is what the film did best. The little bits and pieces of the monster that you get to see are very exciting, and I frequently had a smile on my face during the movie. (I may be a little sick though: I had a smile on my face during the razor scenes in Sweeney Todd. Fake movie violence can be in its own way beautiful…although I can’t bring myself to see Saving Private Ryan. That’s too real.)

Unbelievable things happen in Cloverfield. The whole “let’s save Beth who’s pinned in her apartment uptown, in a building that’s falling down,” etc, was iffy at best, but in a way it was lovely that the yuppies cared about someone so much that they were willing to risk their lives to save her, and to stay together as a group of friends. The two women in the group headed north to Columbus Circle were wearing 3-inch heels. Walking from the party downtown to the Brooklyn Bridge then through the subway tunnel system to 57th street…wow, good thing it wasn’t me. And how ‘bout the life of that battery in the camera! I guess some good person charged the heck out of it before the party.

When I left this movie, my legs were shaking and I felt like I’d had four espressos when I normally drink decaf. Cloverfield was a rollercoaster ride of a disaster movie, told really well. I loved it and I want to see it again.

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