Cloverfield - 2008
Director(s): Matt Reeves
Writer(s): Drew Goddard
Cinematography by: Michael Bonvillain
Editor(s): Kevin Stitt
Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel and Odette Annable
Synopsis: Going away party is interrupted by a mysterious giant monster destroying New York city.
This year marks the ten-year anniversary of this movie and it’s as good as time as any to revisit the originator of this quasi-extended universe. Cloverfield is a simple but effective, found-footage/monster movie that I really enjoyed as a singular story. But now a quasi-extended universe has been created with 2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane and the upcoming “Cloverfield Movie”. As of me writing this the official title has yet to be revealed. Follow me and revisit the movie that gave us Matt Reeves and Drew Goddard. Oh, yeah and this was produced by JJ Abrams.
One of the biggest roadblocks a “found footage” movie has with its audience is convincing them why a character within the movie is filming everything around them. Cloverfield tackles that roadblock by having TJ Miller’s character Hudson be taping a going away party for his friend when the attack on Manhattan occurs. Later it becomes almost a safety blanket for him, watching these crazy events unfold through the lens of the camera helped me cope with trying to survive the night.
Quick note: slight spoiler, so avoid this note if you haven’t seen the movie. After the death of Hudson, the camera is picked up by the two remaining characters so they can film their farewell messages. This part felt forced and out of character since they don’t really acknowledge the camera for the most part of the movie. They are indifferent to it, and I don’t buy them picking up the camera in the face of their imminent death.
This is the stepping stone for director Matt Reeves, who would later give us Let Me In and the Apes Trilogy, and you can clearly see the coal of talent that he would later turn into diamonds. The way he builds up tension throughout this movie is both fun and annoying. You don’t take a break from the moment the monster attacks to the moment they film their farewells. The pace is unforgiving, and when it ends is when you finally take your first breath. The found footage format lends itself to creating more of a tense atmosphere, and since you have almost a tunnel vision of a singular character you are limited to what he sees. Reeves forces the audience to be in the shoes of Hudson and you almost want to scream at him “run” or “look behind you” since you’re not given the full picture.
Reeves and Goddard also gave the monster a great treatment, as they slowly revealed him throughout the runtime. The design is great as it’s very clear the monster is not of this world, unlike a Godzilla (reptile) or a King Kong (gorilla). We are shown his brute strength from the very start as he throws the head of the statue of liberty and takes down building after building. We have moments in which the army unleashes their full strength at it and the monster walks away unscathed. This just adds to the sense of terror and urgency of our characters as they feel helpless against this monster.
The acting is good; nothing that stands-out, but it’s a monster movie. My biggest qualm comes from the dialogue, especially TJ Miller’s Hudson constantly screaming the name of his best friend (Rob). It was over and over to the point that if I was Rob I would’ve told him to shut up. If you can get over that annoying aspect of the movie, you will enjoy the overall product.
Cloverfield is a great entry in a genre dominated by two big names, Godzilla and King-Kong. It’s a monster movie filled with tension that doesn’t let its audience get comfortable, since most of the characters are dying left and right. It’s always fun to see where your favorite working directors/writers/producers got their start and how they have evolved through experience. The trio of Matt Reeves, Drew Goddard and JJ Abrams is why I love movies.
Cloverfield is available on Amazon Prime. Revisit it before going to see the new one. It holds up beautifully.
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