Gosh, I remember the whole big lead up to this films release. The viral marketing, the cryptic trailers and all the speculation as to what this film was about. It was a monster movie, but the real intrigue was what the monster looked like and what caused it to appear in the monster magnet city of New York. I love a good monster film, basically growing up with Godzilla films, this movie intrigued me enough to get invested in the viral marketing and back story even before the movie came out. Destruction, chaos, shaky cam, and monsters, bound to be a good time.
The US Defense Department finds a videotape in the former Central Park. The footage shows a group of friends celebrating a surprise farewell party in the apartment of Rob Hawkins in Lower Manhattan. Rob is a young man that is leaving New York to work in Japan and his friend Hud is recording messages from his friends. Out of the blue, they are surprised by an earthquake and they see on the news that a ship has capsized in the harbor area. They go to the penthouse to see the accident and they actually witness explosions everywhere; when power goes out in the building, they run to the streets trying to save their lives from the attack of the monster. (source)
While I am not a fan of the shaky cam, found footage genre, Cloverfield managed to use the medium effectively, even if it is a bit far fetched. By far fetched, I mean the fact that the camcorder in the film has one of the most powerful batteries and damaged resistance of any commercial camcorder around. So suspension of disbelief aside, Cloverfield does manage to chronicle the destruction and chaos of a monster destroying a city in our youtube generation. We document everything, so it is exciting to see events unfold in real time.
If you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t spoil the film with the reveal of the monster, which is impressive and unlike anything we have seen before. The reveals are done through larger set pieces of action, but also the newscasters who are reporting on the events. Everything has this sense of urgency, from the initial destruction of the Statue of Liberty to the bridge collapse and military engagement, Cloverfield engages us at a constant pace with action and suspense as the intrepid group of citizens makes their way to the safe zone.
Overall Cloverfield is a strong entry into the monster genre. While the film uses the nauseating shaky cam found footage angle to the max, it fits nicely into the proceedings. The actors are the window dressings to the chaos, but they all deliver that human element that is needed to sell the fact that there is a monster destroying their city. The whole movie is a great ride, even if you get a bit sick from the frantic shakiness of the camera. I enjoyed the viral marketing of the film, giving it a new layer to understanding more about the monster itself, rather than having it all explained in the film. There is some beauty to all the destructiveness of the film, even if it was a blur with HUD’s use of the camera. Still, found footage aside, Cloverfield didn’t really break new ground with the monster movie genre, but it did gives us a new entry into the big monster mix.