By Bryan Reynolds
Cloverfield has been called the Blair Witch Project meets Godzilla, but it is so much more than that. Yes, it is filmed in the first-person camera style like the former, and it does have a giant monster rampaging through New York City; however, the combination of these parts creates a movie which transcends either of those franchises.
It isn’t about a group of kids getting killed by doing something stupid or the military trying to fight off a massive beast. It is about one guy risking his life to save someone he loves and his friends backing him up. One word best describes what Cloverfield is: wow.
The movie opens a month before the monster attacks. Rob (Michael Stahl-David) and Beth (Odette Yustman) are waking up after their first night sleeping together. After a little flirting, they decide to spend the day together at Coney Island, and every so often during the movie, the audience is treated to quick flashes of this day. This happens whenever the tape in the camcorder is stopped or messed with by the character filming.?
These flashes work well, giving the audience insight into why Rob is willing to risk his life. The lead up to the monster attack is fairly dull. It came off the conveyor belt right behind 90210 and every other teen and post-teen drama. Hud (T.J. Miller) has a thing for Marlena (Lizzy Caplan), but she can’t stand him, and Beth is mad at Rob. The biggest complaint that can be raised about Cloverfield is the ideas conveyed in the film have all been done countless times before. Giant monster attacking New York City? We’ve seen that one or two times. Small monsters attacking New York City isn’t terribly original either.? Seriously, what is it with New York City and monsters? They must go there for the Broadway shows and then just get a little peckish afterwards.
However, it is the presentation that makes this movie so amazing. The first-person camera means the audience is right there in the middle of this chaos. There is a part where Rob and his friends are walking down the street heading toward Beth’s apartment when, “boom”, out of nowhere an RPG shot races by. An instant later, thanks to the camera, we’re in the middle of the fight between the army and the monster. It’s a truly breathtaking experience.
Despite its recycled ideas, the entire Cloverfield experience is breathtaking. It has something for every member of the audience too: humor, a monster dining on hapless victims and romance. It even gives guys a new pickup line: “Baby, I would cross a monster-infested city for you.”
Just make sure you take something to help with the inevitable motion sickness before you see it; that camera is a killer.