Cloverfield Review

Cloverfield is not a giant monster movie. Going in with the expectation to see a monster rampaging through New York is not the proper way of preparing yourself. This is a disaster movie where the disaster happens to be caused by a massive hulking beast shot from the innovative POV of a handheld camera.

If anything, Cloverfield answers the question “what if” to the classic movie scenario. What if an unidentified monster suddenly and unexpectedly showed up in a major city? Undoubtedly, it would play out much like what happens here. The performances, unique style, and proper amount of action give off an immense sense of authenticity to a ridiculous concept.

Cloverfield has a few obvious, glaring problems. The love story that serves as the basis for the story is a mess of clichés, giving the core of the film a familiar feel. The only thing separating it from a dull drama is the camera. Its purpose is simply to push the characters from place to place, even though the disaster occurring around them should have been enough.

Secondary, many of the scenes are taken out of any disaster movie. As the cast struggles to survive, there are shots plucked out of numerous ‘70s disaster epics. The danger would have been as effective with an earthquake at the heart of the problem and not a giant monster.

Thirdly, this is occasionally frustrating to watch. Anyone who walks into the film expects to see the beast, and yet the audience is mostly stuck listening to the attack in the background. Other times, the cameraman is focused on the wrong target, the worst case being the military assault. If you’re goal is to film this “so everyone should know how it all went down,” why are we looking at your friends and not the once-in-a-lifetime moment occurring down the block?

Stunning images are abound, and those sensitive to the 9/11 disaster should be forewarned. The destruction leads to some eerily similar footage, and a late rescue attempt leads to a shot that is an obvious correlation. Like the original 1954 Godzilla in which the Japanese found an allegory for the Hiroshima bombings in their film, it’s not hard to pull the similarities here with an American one.

Squeamish people should also stay away. The gore factor is surprising, easily pushing the limits of a PG-13 rating. This is not blood tossed in for the sake of shocking the viewer. It’s effective in giving scale to the story outside of the five characters the film follows. Brief segments that show news stations covering the ongoing disaster increase the believability.

Action always delivers an intense, tension-filled run (and without musical accompaniment). It’s unquestionable that the effectiveness would have dropped substantially if this had been directed in a traditional manner. While the audience would have been given an epic attack film, it would have been one without the intimate feel the handheld camera provides. The monster, an inspired, unique creation to say the least, is given enough screen time to satisfy the curious. A few contrived meetings always have the cast in the wrong place at the wrong time (the final screen appearance stretching things to the breaking point), though you’ll likely be involved to the point where won’t notice.

Some daring special effects showcase a devastated New York in broad daylight, along with monster. CG shots are done in the dark, though night vision, and limited lighting. It’s an impressive variety for what became a “cheap” production given the massive scale of the story as presented.

Those who wish to learn more should carefully watch the final seconds of footage, and stay after the credits. Not only is there potential for a sequel, it’s not hard to imagine an alternate take on this same story from a different perspective. Cloverfield could be taken in a number of directions from here.

Some will come away frustrated by the camera work. Others will be annoyed by the lack of answers as to what “it” is. The rest will be engaged and unable to move from their seats as they witness an innovative take on an overlooked sub-genre. Those who put the most into it will get the most out Cloverfield.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

cloverfield

Wow. Cloverfield is a stunning HD spectacle. While there are few shots that appear noisy (as they did in theaters), this is a flawless example of how incredible Blu-ray can be. Sharp, clean, and remarkably clear, Cloverfield might even look better than it did in theaters. Detail is phenomenal, and the rich, bold blacks create a beautiful contrast. For a film trying to look as if it was shot by a home video cameras, in this respect, it almost fails. On Blu-ray, it does exactly what it should.

Video ★★★★★ 

Now with uncompressed audio, this is an even louder, crisper home presentation of this memorable movie. Bass is simply astonishing in its power to rattle a room. The intensity of the military battle sequence, complete with spot on surround use is incredible. Even the subtlety of the subway scenes, from the echoes of the dialogue to the fight going on above the characters off screen are flawless. This is one of those immersive tracks you’ll ever hear on any format.

Audio ★★★★★ 

The commentary from director Matt Reeves is going to disappoint a lot of people. This is purely a technical commentary, discussing the shoot and repetitively mentioning the limited budget. There is no explanation for the beast, he points out no small touches, and fails to clarify anything other than how the movie was shot.

That leads into some robust extras apart from that. Document 1-18-08 is a half-hour behind the scenes piece loaded with on set footage. While it begins as promotional material, it quickly turns into a nice look at how the film came to be. Cloverfield Visual Effects is an aptly titled piece on the CG and green screen shots that offers countless comparisons of the live action and final composites during its 22-minute run.

I Saw It, It’s Alive, It’s Huge is a five-and-a-half-minute short on the main creature design. There is confirmation here that the monster featured is in fact only a baby as seen in the film. Cloverfun is a rather bland collection of outtakes for four minutes.

Four deleted scenes include commentary and offer little to the overall film, while most of the footage shown here ended up in the movie anyway. Two alternate endings also feature very minor changes, and you’ll need the commentary to pick out the differences on the second on. Some trailers are the final piece to this disc.

Extras ★★★★☆ 

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