I bought into the super-hype that is/was Cloverfield about 6 months before the actual thing was released (last weekend). The original unnamed teaser trailer with some vague images of New York City getting trashed by... something, the oodles of online speculation about what the creature was and what it looked like, and tons of studio-released images of yuppies at a cocktail party. I couldn't get enough of Cloverfield. And I didn't even mind the name (which really does sound kind of gay).
Then, after all that waiting 1-18-08 arrived and I was given my first taste of what Cloverfield really meant. And for all intents and purposes it didn't disappoint. Nothing too bad to say about it, and some fantastic geek-gasms that I want to type out for your and my own amusement to follow. So here we go.
I went into the theater thinking I knew exactly what was going to play out in front of me on the big screen: That would be "a Godzilla movie as told from the perspective of the little humans running around at the monster's feet as he crushed a city to dust." And yeah, that's pretty much what we get. This is basically like Signs: A small story about insignificant people (meaning not the tough heroes who usually end up fighting the invader[s]); just a bunch of nobodies caught up in the big, world-changing events that explode all around them. But instead of aliens who have a hyper allergic reaction to H2O, in Cloverfield we have an indestructible, mammoth demon from the sea with a whippy tail and a strangely misshapen body that would make H. R. Giger proud. And quite honestly, I liked it.
I liked how things started out with the yuppie party for Rob thrown by his brother Jason, and Jason's girlfriend Lily. I liked how Jason passed the video camera (whose viewpoint the entire movie is seen from) on to Hud, Rob's best friend, in order to document Rob's last days in New York before leaving for a job in Japan. I loved how jilted friend/potential girlfriend Beth showed up and left, but not before a bit of her and Rob's fight is caught by Hud's eye. And I really loved Hud's obsession with Marlena — the friend of a friend who was invited to the party without knowing many of the core people there (I've been to that certain gathering. Many times uninvited). Yes, the party scene went on for like 20 minutes, but I appreciated how if you didn't know this was going to turn into a monster movie you would probably still want to hang out with these guys for another hour and a half just to see how things turned out between Rob and Beth, and Hud and Marlena. Even though Rob looks and acts like a douchebag.
But around the 20 minute mark is when this movie just got geekly awesome. I had caught myself in the past wondering what the average citizen of Tokyo must feel like to initially hear Godzilla or Gamera's beastly bellow from behind a bunch of skyscrapers from the direction of the ocean, and then maybe see a massive explosion, or a building collapse from one's own balcony. Even if you knew, "Oh shit! Gojira agaaaaaaaaaain! My insurance is not gonna pay for this crap anymore!" you'd still shit bricks at the size of the behemoth approaching. Cloverfield doesn't make it that obvious or predictable, but the first 15 - 20 minutes of the giant creature's initial attack on the city is really fucking intense. The director and actors really captured the feelings of total "holy FUCK-ness" that would paint the city if such events were to really happen. And I'm going to piss off the Chief a little here (you can check his review out after mine), but the "holy FUCK-ness" of this movie did remind me of 9/11. I know, I know... Not original of me, but I'm not talking about the images of buildings collapsing into clouds of dust and debris, or military jets circling the skies above. No, I'm talking about the initial panic and fear — the thoughts of the average citizens wondering just what the fuck is going on, and how do we escape it!
Like I said earlier, this isn't the tale of the hotshot pilot who tries to take the big bad down. This isn't the story of John McClane facing overwhelming odds and saving everybody by the scruff of his neck before the end credits. This is the record of a bunch of normals who just want to get the fuck out of Dodge before whatever it is that hit the Big Apple decides to take another bite. THAT is what reminded me of that shitty day back in 2001. I think the filmmakers nailed that terror. Sure, they associated the fear of the unknown with Godzilla's mutant fuck-up brother instead of asshole terrorists, but they captured the petrified emotion of the event. At least for the first 15 - 20 minutes of panic.
After that... Well, it didn't get bad or boring (in fact this thing is constantly on the move), but the shock and dread of the initial moments of the monster's landfall do diminish a lot after a while. Sure, there are some scares to be found, and the climb up and over to the almost collapsed apartment building had me at the edge of my seat, but things just settled into a typical Hollywood movie after that.
So it's like this: Party at Rob's house, Rob and Beth have a fight, Beth leaves, friends console Rob, WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT explosion rocks the city, monster attacks, gang tries to get the fuck out of town, Rob gets a desperate call from Beth, the gang (what's left of it) makes its way back into Manhattan to save Beth, typical Hollywood filler, big "fuck that monster! Goddammit!" ending.
I liked it. I liked parts of it much more than the whole though. I just wonder if there was any way to extend that initial dread and sense of "we're all boned" that kept the beginning so awesome.
This movie was awesome! I love monster movies and this blew the shit out of "The Mist". But god damnit what is up with the goddamn critics? Coming down on the shaky cam? Thought the monster was lame? Thought there should have been more tits? NO. All they could talk about was "9/11 Imagery." "Oh the director is just playing on our 9/11 emotions!" "This film is neck deep in the mire of our 9/11 fears" What... the... fuck
At first I thought this was 90230, or One Tree Smallville, or whatever all those punk kids are watching on the television nowadays. But then that giant iguana/deep-sea angler fish hybrid showed up and started eating everyone! Oooh-hoooo! Fantastic!
I was very enthusiastic about it when I got home after viewing this talky this past weekend, but instead of breaking open the Mutagen® again, or stitching together two sad little beings of different backgrounds and then hitting them with a nice clean blast of gamma radiation, I just went to bed. I couldn't believe it myself! Such a fantastic movie of a giant demon from the abyss devouring the heathens of Manhattan Island — so ripe with inspiration — and yet I did nothing to create a Clovey of my own.
I must be getting old.