Saturday, January 19, 2008

My take on Cloverfield. Part 1 **SPOILER ALERT**

Let me begin by saying that this has by far been the most anticipated movie I have ever wanted to see. Since the viral marketing engine (trailers, teasers, insider buzz) set forth shy of a year ago, don't forget all the nifty viral sites, I engraved "1-18-08" squarely on the center of my consciousness. And last night it finally happened. Warning: this will be a spoiler, but if you are looking for a plot synopsis, look elsewhere like the wiki.

So I attended the movie as a foursome in a pretty packed (but surprisingly not sold out) theatre in downtown Lincoln. Whether by design or by chance their were hardly any movie trailers to sit through (although the product advertisements were annoying as fuck all). I was grateful cause with a runtime of only 85 minutes I imagined they would have crammed in nearly 30 minutes worth of trailers before the film actually started. Which would have sucked. I enjoy trailers, but sometimes enough is enough, you know? So the lights fell and Cloverfield began.

And then Cloverfield ended. This movie's speed is pretty quick despite the intricate sub-story woven into the context of the battle to survive this uncategorized nemesis. Even if Cloverfield turned out to be another hour in length this would not leave you feeling the extra time. I enjoyed the pace of the movie very much. Like the majority of buzz I read before hand, this is not your typical mega-monster flick. And honestly, that was refreshing. The last thing I wanted to see was another movie like the Godzilla remake which was basically the cinematic equivalent of a profilactic. (Use once, promptly roll off, throw away. Next.) Personally, the way P. Diddy raped Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" still gives me dry heaves.

Cloverfield dispensed with a tried and true formula for many other epic monster flicks similar to that used by the old western films. There seems to be three entities to the formula:
1- there's something out there
2- whatever it is it's on its way
3- oh shit, it's here and we're fucked

By not using this tired formula, we as viewers are more easily convinced that the encounter is totally out of the blue and therefore devastatingly brutal having caught all of Manhattan with their pants down, so to speak. (Or, in the case of our characters, in a mix of intoxication, consumption of the romantic sub-drama between Beth and Rob and celebratory bliss.) Just when the tension between Beth and Rob reaches a rolling boil - the shit hits the fan proper! Immediately we are thrown into a desperate struggle of survival against the monster who has for some unknown reason targeted Manhattan Island. (More on this in a bit.)

In true Lost fashion, Cloverfield alludes to much, but delivers very little concrete fact about the beast. Obviously, this makes sense when you consider the time frame of the story. Honestly, picking up the vibe from not only my party, but the rest of the movie viewers, this worked to both advantage and disadvantage. By the end of the film, most viewers were looking for answers that were not provided. Forget about the rhyme or reason of the beast other than the fact it and it's tiny and equally ferocious partners are hungry for human flesh (but not Clydesdale flesh as was evident by the passenger-less horse and carriage Rob and company encountered on their way to Beth's apartment) and getting eaten is far better than surviving a bite.

Instead of answers we are left with lots of questions that will appropriately be answered if and when the sequel arrives. Yes, folks. From about 15-minutes in you get the sense that this has franchise written all over it. Of course, there in lies a potential evil if the sequel never materializes. (But I wouldn't worry about that too much.) Information or lack there of regarding the beast is delivered to the audience very haphazardly. This works. After all, everyone's main concern (except the reluctantly, newly lovestruck Rob) is to flee the island in hopes of escaping and avoiding the impending doom. And believe me the doom is spread pretty copiously like delicious JIF. But here is where I start to have problems with Cloverfield.

In the opening scene of the unseen beast's arrival, we see a fireball of explosion viewed from the rooftop of the party which causes fallout to strike the surrounding buildings officially marking the point where the shit hits the fan. But what exactly blew up? Was it a building? I had thought it might had been the capsized oil tanker, but later when our core cast makes it to the Brooklyn bridge we see the capsized tanker strewn ashore structurally intact. So what gives? Well, we will never know as it is never revealed what exactly caused the big explosion. We assume it's the monster but was it from an attack or possibly from it's landing on Earth? (The latter being a brief thought I had at that particular moment in the film.) But then again, why did the oil tanker capsize? Must be that the monster was in the water to begin with, right?



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