Monday, January 21, 2008

Bad Movie Night: Cloverfield

This past weekend, The Machete and I were joined by my fiancee for Bad Movie Night: Cloverfield. I have to admit, I believe the three of us were a bit confused coming out of the theater: we couldn't tell if we had just seen a really awesome giant monster movie or a really bad episode of Dawson's Creek. So let us bisect it into its two components and review from there, shall we?


Cloverfield delivers in spades when it comes to capturing all of the chaos and confusion that would occur if a giant monster (and its freaky-creepy minions) decided to attack a major metropolitan area. Tension, suspense, and outright fear are used perfectly to steer the audience away from ridiculous disbelief (it's still a giant monster movie) and towards creatively tweaking their "Fight or Flight" response. Claustrophobia, terror, and an overwhelming "rats in a maze" hopeless feeling exude out of every scene.

The street level perspective is a great tool. It helps theatergoers realize that in this situation, where a big scary creepy thing is knocking over buildings, expelling evil minions, and eating people like bon bons, no one would really give a rat's ass where it came from or what it was here for until they were far enough away to safely conjecture about it, preferably over a post traumatic stress beer.

Most thankfully, there is no "Plot Stick" either. At no point does a scientist or a government agent who somehow has the creature's entire history "break it down" for the audience. The closest the movie comes to that is overheard conversations of people trying to rationalize or guess the creature's origins and motives. They do this while they are running for their lives, of course. And also, while the movie does bear a resemblance to 9/11 media coverage, the "Plot Stick" thankfully keeps from trying to "teach us a lesson" or preach. It's subtle - the imagery really adds to the confusion and fear. Smart.

The actual monster and its minions were, for lack of a better term, bad ass. As a whole, it was cool to see the creatures weren't your generic dinosaur-esque fire-breathing lizards on the rampage. Honestly, I think a zoologist would have a hell of a time classifying it, unless there was a general "awesome" phylum. Seriously, it's way more "Lovecraft" than "B-Movie Discovery Channel." The creature gets bonus points for having the wherewithal to rip the head off of Lady Liberty and launch it into downtown Manhattan. Up yours, King Kong!!!


For all it's cool aspects, there is something holding this movie back from being truly awesome, and I thank my fiancee for this pop culture reference...


The (human) main characters are the one truly truly truly weak link in this film.

The main story line should have opened with a Paula Cole or Dido song. In a nutshell, and I'm not giving anything away, spoiled twenty-something yuppies act like spoiled twenty something yuppies for the entirety of the movie. You know, during the catastrophic and cataclysmic leveling of New York City, amidst death and destruction and the rampaging of one huge bad ass creature and legions of smaller, creepy, and equally bad ass little creatures, characters who really don't care about anything else but what they want.

The main character's motivations and actions are just absurd. Maybe I don't really understand the simple nuances which drive human emotion and love and all, but to risk the lives of friends and siblings to find a girl you've had a crush on and who just walked out with another guy is, for lack of a better term, stupid. And it's not like "I drove to your house in a car with the engine light on in an ice storm" stupid - it's like charging head long into 20 stories of death dealing monster stupid. There is nothing even chivalrous or brave about it. His brother is right when he refers to him as a "douche bag."

The only thing possibly more insane than this jackass main character are the other jackasses following him. Hello, my name is Jim Jones, would you like to try my koolaide? I understand the trials that come with loyalty, but seriously though... The moment my best friend starts marching off to save some hussy from a rampaging mega-monster, I'm cracking him over the head with my Sony handi-cam and dragging his ass to safety. Let the guys with the tanks and guns (who are obviously losing) take care of it. Instead these morons bravely march onward into the jaws of death.

I don't know, maybe the writers wanted the audience to hate the main character and feel bad for his entourage in the same way you feel bad for an abused pet? Maybe they wanted you to see a bit of Darwinian Karma in action? Heady social commentary about selfishness? I'm not sure, but if the characters had an ounce of precaution, pride, or common sense to guide their actions, then maybe they would be more believable than the monster attack itself. Instead, you find yourself cheering for the monster to eat them. And cheer often, you do!!!

Bad Movie Night Rating: Seven over Dragon Wars (7/10).

Cloverfield is certainly entertaining. The main creature is probably the best rendition of a giant monster (all classical respect aside, Mr. Kong and Mrs. Zilla), there is a tangible tension and fear pervading through the film which is great, and the reactions of the people are extremely realistic, save for one moron leading a pack of morons through what looks like a post-9/11 war zone. It's a winner if you can get your mind past all of the "whys" and "hows" of the characters' actions and just enjoy watching them get eaten.


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At January 21, 2008 at 8:22 PM , Blogger LastBestAngryMan said...

The Official Wife and I went to see Cloverfield on sunday, and I agree with most of your review; the monster would give H.R. Giger worse nightmares than he already has, the chaos and terror and uncertainty of it all was brilliantly done, and I really actually enjoyed the portrayal of the military and emergency services; bravely doing their job in the face of something mind-meltingly awful.

As for the character's motivations, I think you're supposed to assume that Rob has just always been in love with Beth...and would you want your last words to a woman you loved be, "Good luck tonight, Travis," to her douchebag date? Probably not. Yes, it was colossally stupid, but at least I could buy it a little bit.

That didn't stop me from whispering, "I'd leave the bony bitch to die."

At January 22, 2008 at 8:12 AM , Blogger robustyoungsoul said...

Added to Netflix queue.


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