Monday, January 21, 2008
Cloverfield is NOT the end-all-be-all of movies. Nor is it the reinvention of cinema. It's a mildly entertaining monster picture, told from a fresh perspective that, while not building a better mousetrap, sets up an interesting concept that has me extremely hopeful for a better take on the subject.
The story is pretty self explanatory: There's a guy named Rob who has a crush on his best lady friend Beth. They sleep together one day, but then Rob screws it up and a month later he's leaving for Japan to take a job. At his going away party, Beth shows up with some tool, and sets Rob off, bringing to the table his true feelings for Beth, who can't handle this with Rob leaving for Japan, so she leaves the party in Downtown SoHo and makes it up to Central Park West in about 20 minutes. Oh, then a monster attacks the city.
See what I did there? I spent a lot of needless time on characters that you don't really give a crap about, because they're all yuppie douche nozzles. Drunk, yuppie douche nozzles, to be precise.
You know that guy at your office (or perhaps he's a friend of a friend) who's an asshole, but he knows he's an asshole and takes every opportunity to defuse the situation by declaring himself an asshole, as if that somehow excuses his assholic tendencies? Imagine a movie populated with nothing but him and his friends, and that's what the characters in Cloverfield are like. And there's twenty minutes of this! I swear to Odin I wanted to choke everyone with their MySpace page after the fifteen minute mark.
The only person I liked was Marlena, who was played by the funky chick in Mean Girls that the IMDB has helpfully informed me is named Lizzy Caplan. She's my kinda lady. She's also just at this party to stop by and say hi, then get to her real friends, which makes me think she's got more going on in her life. And the camera man has a crush on her, so he's filming her a lot. (To good comedic effect, actually). But that wasn't enough.
So, anyway, this monster appears and takes out the head of the statue of liberty and takes down a building outside where the party is happening. A large cloud of dust and smoke chases bystanders up the street, instantly declaring the monster a metaphor for 9/11. (Which is a good idea, being that Godzilla was created as a metaphor for Hiroshima and Nagasaki). Then it attacks the Brooklyn Bridge, where people are attempting to mass evacuate the city. And some parasitic lice fall off the creature and start making things difficult for everybody. And that was very cool. Then it's back to running away. Very shaky-cam running, which if you're too close to the screen, will make you nauseous.
It's not like Cloverfield is a bad movie. Far from it. It just makes some interesting choices that don't work. But, it makes even more interesting choices that DO work. I like that you get no explanation whatsoever as to the history of this creature, almost as if it were willed from the collective subconscious of NYC. I like that you only see the monster from vantage points that don't give it a clear view. Hell, I think you even see the monster too much, but that's okay.
But then there's the negatives of the movie, weighing down on my mind and making me dislike the film more and more. And that's overlooking the logic problems presented, such as where did this magic camera with unlimited battery power and the ability to survive explosions come from? Or how do they make it walking in the subway tunnels over 60 blocks in less than 2 hours? And, when they are in the darkened subway tunnels, how come the CHUDs don't attack? These minor quibbles irritate me far more than the "Where did the monster come from?" ever could begin to imagine.
I respect what the filmmakers of Cloverfield are trying to do, showing the very real emotional situation of getting to the ones you love in times of great chaos, and doing it on this very personal level. I'd just rather they chose more interesting people to tell this tale. And that is why if they make a sequel, I will definitely buy a ticket, because there are more tales to be told of this mystery creature. Even if they aren't CHUDs.