Sunday, January 20, 2008


I was looking forward to the weekend, breakfast, some shopping, and a trip to see one of the most anticipated and hyped movies of the year, Cloverfield. Much of the hype was centered around the controversy of presenting images that many felt was taking advantage of the images of September 11, 2001. I don’t know if the controversy is true or not? I will say there are many images that resemble those we saw on this day. What I do know is I am fan of the television series Lost and Lost and Cloverfield producer, JJ Abrams. That said, as a result of seeing the movies preliminary trailers, I was excited.

The best way I know how to describe Cloverfield is to say it is like a bad ass Godzilla, with a twist that resembles The Blair Witch Project. The movie starts with what seems to be an official government comment that states the film was found at Central Park in New York City. Shortly after the commentary, we see what appears to be a home made film, that shows a group of friends celebrating one of their friends, Rob, who has taken a job as a Vice President of a company in Japan. Intermingled with the video we see the video being used is taped over of another video. We see a love story played out amongst the film congratulating Rob for the new job. While the action is jerky and resembling of someone actually shooting this as a home video, the viewer is drawn into the story as it develops. We don’t know what all is going on but director Matt Reeves does a great job of using this technique to tell a story, and developing characters. While not all of the principles are developed in the way I would have liked, the primary characters and story is. Not only do we get drawn into the lives of the characters, once all hell breaks loose and we see that New York City is under attack by some beast, it is as if we are there, along for the danger. Part of the reason this works is that Cloverfield don’t use well known actors in this role. As a result, we as viewers can better relate. It is as if we are watching real people, not actors.

At first, as New York comes under attack, we don’t know what is going on. There are loud explosions and earth shaking moments. The primary person shooting the video, Hud, continues shooting through everything, from the party to celebrate Rob’s new job, to the attack by the creature. There is a lot of shaky hand held footage and some not used to this type of filming, just like in The Blair Witch Project, may end up with motion sickness. While one may have issues with this, I felt it added to the enjoyment and realism of the movie. The viewer becomes a part of the movie, from moments including running with the characters, to the surprises along the way. There will be enough surprises to have you jumping out of your seat, and squeezing the hand of the person you are at the movie with if on a date. The story flows, the surprises keep your attention, and there are enough scary moments that if you have a heart condition, you might best stay home. The direction, script and everything else works about as well as it could for this roller coaster thrill ride with enough scares and moments the viewer will have to remind themselves to breathe.

As the movie developed, I thought about a passage from the Bible, John 15:13 states, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

We see this love in a various ways. While Rob realizes that he may have let the one love of his life slip away, he insists on going into the face of danger to have a chance at retrieving that love. Along the journey, several friends go along; not knowing what is ahead of them. They know they want to be with a friend, one they love. We may think these friends are crazy but one should not loose sight that these individuals genuinely love each other, and want to help each other. The horrors and dangers they face in order to be there for each other is what the movie is about. Sure there are scares and sickening things along the way but the constant theme is to press on out of finding and reestablishing love. While there are costs there is ultimately hope.

While the basics of Cloverfield seem to work, there are a lot of holes in the story. Holes surrounding what one would think are key components. What is the creature? Where does the creature come from? Why is the Creature there? And I could go on and on. I came to the conclusion that while the creature is a key part of the movie; it is really more of a sub plot than a primary plot. It actually reminded me of the movie, The Village by M. Night Shyamalan. One could take that comparison too far, but it is easy to get so focused on what we think the story is about that we likely don’t see the real story.

I was reminded of the tactics used by JJ Abrams in the television show Lost. There are many parts of the movie easy to miss if we glance away or don’t pay attention to the full picture or sounds on screen. I know part of the ending of the movie after the credits have rolled, and most people have left the theater certainly give to this tactic used by Abrams and others. I won’t give anything away, but there is a great deal of discussion about the ending of the movie. There are other scenes and aspects that fall into this. It is why I will see the movie again and I suspect others will do the same.

I would have liked to have seen another 15 – 30 minutes of Cloverfield, it was short in length. For all practical purposes the movie worked, and the hype while falling just short, still was close to being on track. I can’t guarantee a sequel or prequel, but I won’t be surprised. Without giving a spoiler, I will say if you stay until after the end of the credits, you will know why this is possible.

Cloverfield is certainly a worth while movie; it is one worth seeing if you like this kind of film. For that reason, on a scale of 1 – 10, I am taking away a 3 for the characters who appear to live and give it a satisfying 7.

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