Back when Cloverfield was about to hit theaters, there was so much hype surrounding its imminent release that I was taken aback. I find that if I jump onto the hype train, all too often the destination is underwhelming. Disappointments are things to avoid, so I generally stay away from movies that are touted as the next big thing. It’s been awhile since Cloverfield arrived on dvd and I finally gave it a shot.
By now the cat’s out of the bag, so I don’t feel like I’m spoiling anything by laying out the premise for the film. A giant monster of unknown origins begins attacking New York, and a group of friends manages to handycam their experiences during the event. Though the film is shot in the frenetic style of The Blair Witch Project, and theaters warned moviegoers of potential motion sickness (which I usually experience), I didn’t find Cloverfield to be nauseating at all. The film is short – just long enough, really – and manages to catch its breath every now and then, which also helps.
The genre has certainly had its ups and downs over the years. From classics like Jurassic Park to downers like Godzilla, monster movies are hit and miss, and more often misses – but Cloverfield is damn good. The script pays respect to the genre’s Japanese heritage with the main character of the film soon leaving for a job opportunity in the land of the rising sun, but this trounces Japanese canon, and virtually every other giant monster movie ever made.
The characters manage to draw you in, and you’ll find yourself really rooting for them. The action set pieces are all fantastic despite being fairly stock, mostly due to the incredible visual effects. I can only imagine the horror of a visual effects artist trying to matchmove the jittery camerawork in every scene – or spending weeks creating buildings that get destroyed on screen for less than 5 seconds. The hand-to-hand combat that takes place in the film matches the human prey against their cg predators convincingly, too. Monster movies are about spectacle, and this one certainly makes good on its promise. And despite the insane premise, manages to suspend your disbelief by presenting the adventure in very realistic fashion.
I can only imagine how well this film must have been received in Japan. Cloverfield is the ultimate monster movie, and I would definitely recommend you check it out if you haven’t already.
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