Monday, January 21, 2008

Cloverfield: A Four-Sentence Movie Review

After its "what the hell was that?" teaser that ran front of Transformers in July, Cloverfield created a whole lot of anticipation for a new kind of "monster attacks big city" movie, but if you've seen the trailer, you've essentially already seen the movie because it follows much the same format of getting you to think you're watching one kind of story, only to broadside you with the realization that it's a vehicle for something else entirely.

Maybe the key difference is that the trailer fools you thinking it's an indie, beautiful people, slice-of-life sort of movie, but then jolts you into a disaster movie, while the actual movie carries the expectations of being a monster flick, but turns out to be more of a story about a relationship with several heavy-handed visual allegories to September 11th.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy Cloverfield because the special effects are great when they count most, whether in the scenes of New York City's destruction, initial fleeting glimpses of the monster between buildings, frenzied swings of the hand-held camera as the characters just can't help but look back while also trying to run for their lives, the final money shot of the beast in almost-full view, and most especially during the subway tunnel sequence in which the words "turn on the night vision" bring about the movie's scariest, creepiest, most thrilling payoff.

Telling its story almost entirely from the ground-level, part of the crowd, regular citizen perspective (thanks to what is apparently the world's most powerful, longest lasting camcorder battery) was also an interesting twist to the monster/disaster genre, even if I thought the characters we follow are largely hipster douchebags who seem like they were taken straight out of that new KFC Hot Wings ("Anything is possible!") commercial, and I was kind of hoping the giant monster would pick them off the street and eat them like chicken wings.

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[UPDATED at 11:30 a.m.]