Quickie Review – Cloverfield (2008)

cf1After the recent surprise announcement of the follow-up film 10 Cloverfield Lane and the accompanying trailer which immediately turned me on if for no other reason than the presence of John Goodman who is almost always a selling point for me, I decided maybe it was time to go ahead and watch the original Cloverfield in preparation for the new one, and…

I dunno… maybe it’s a New York thing, where knowing the different locations and having a day-to-day connection to them makes it feel more threatening on a personal level. My son who lives there says he got completely caught up in the movie and it worked for him.

Or maybe it’s because I was watching it at home by myself instead of in a theater on the big screen with a proper audience where the monster would seem more menacing and you have the other film-goers also reacting to things.

Or maybe it’s just because of my general aversion to found-footage movies. While I can understand the supposed sense of immediacy and perhaps intimacy that these movies are supposed to have, and there have been some that I have really gotten into and enjoyed, for the most part I find them actually distancing and a distraction from the story that is being told.

Or maybe it’s because of the very nature of the”found” footage film – in order for it to have been found, it has to have been “lost” in the first place, meaning that there is a sense of inevitability to the final reel which lessens its impact to a degree that when the end does come, the feeling is more “Yep, that’s it.” than “Oh, no, they didn’t make it after all!” (Oops, I guess that was a spoiler, but as I said, it’s also part-and-parcel with the very nature of this type of movie, so it really shouldn’t be one.)

cf2Or maybe it’s simply the movie itself. I have no idea how much of the dialogue was scripted and how much was improvised, nor how much leeway the actors were given when it came to the interpretation of their characters, but – and I freely admit that it could be an age thing where I’m just too old to relate to the 20 somethings that populate the film – I just found myself feeling no real connection to any of them.

(By the way, one question that I simply have not been able to get past and which relates to the motivating force behind much of the action in the movie: I understand that Doug having slept with Beth is a surprise to many of his friends, but nonetheless she seems to be someone everyone knows and a part of their inner circle, so why was she not already at his going away party, when people like Marlena, who claims to barely know him are? Was there a line of dialogue that I missed that explains her absence? I’ll admit that it’s entirely possible that there was, but again that’s something I attribute to the very nature of this type of film – sometimes in all the chaos taking place on screen, important plot points like that simply get lost.)

cf3Whatever the reason, I found myself not connecting with Cloverfield at all.

That’s not to say that I think it’s a bad movie. For what it is, it works well enough, and I’m willing to admit that there is a lot of creativity taking place here. The monster design in particular is excellent – and the use of the smaller critters to provide a more immediate threat, while something of an overused trope works well here. Also there are moments – such as the actual rescue of Beth which take advantage of the single camera point of view to good advantage, but those really don’t make up for the negatives for me.

Overall, I suppose I’ll simply have to say that if you’re into this style of film, then you’ll probably like Cloverfield, but for me it really was just a non-starter.

On the other hand, I’ll also add that despite all of the above, I’m still looking forward to seeing what 10 Cloverfield Lane has to offer, but that’s mostly down to my wanting to see what kind of monster John Goodman really turns out to be.

Here’s your Cloverfield trailer:

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