Saturday, January 19, 2013

This Month In... 2008: "Cloverfield"

Found footage and it's good?
Sign me up!

Holy Godzilla, Cameraman!

    By now I'm sure most people have heard of and probably seen Cloverfield. The notoriously mysterious film from director Matt Reeves (Let Me In), writer Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods) and producer J.J. Abrams (Lost), whose marketing campaign had the film titled 1-18-08, the release date of the film. Very little was known about the film going into it, which could partially explain $170 million dollars the film made. The film follows Rob (Michael Stahl-David, The Black Donnellys) and his friends Hud (T.J. Miller, She's Out of My League), Lily (Jessica Lucas, Friends With Benefits), Jason (Mike Vogel, Pan Am) and Marlena (Lizzy Caplan, Party Down) who attempt to rescue Rob's love Beth (Odette Yustman, The Unborn), who is trapped due to the giant monster attacking New York City. The film is told entirely from a cameras which Hud uses to film the events of the attack.

Footage Found

    I'm not the biggest fan of found footage films. I've never liked the Paranormal Activity films, only mildly like Chronicle and downright hated Project X. So maybe when I say that Cloverfield is the best found footage movie ever, the real lack of competition means that that isn't real an epic feat. The reason I personally liked the found footage style in Cloverfield over other films is that the film actually uses the found footage style in an interesting way. Most films do it to cash in on the trend or to cover up low production values, which usually means that the story could have be filmed regularly without much change. Cloverfield, however, needs the found footage. The story it tells is a classic. A giant monster attacks a major city. Not exactly the pinnacle of originality. So the film wisely uses the found footage to present the story in an interesting new way. We're not following the monster or the military. We are one the ground, with the people, not knowing what's going on. And it works beautifully. 

The fact that these photo aren't found footage
is really weird.
    Giant Monster Attack Drama?
    Cloverfield is at times a legitimately scary movie. This is my fifth viewing of this movie and the scene in the subway still creeps me the hell out. Which is a little weird. The characters aren't great. They don't really have an major personalities and they aren't big action movie heroes. Just like real people. They aren't trying to kill the monster or find out what caused the attack. They are just trying to survive and be with the ones they love. Just like real people. The characters lack of personality, in  this type of film, makes them surprisingly more relatable. The actors do a good job of acting like at any moment you might be bitten in half by a giant monster. So, we want to see them survive, which makes for an intense film. Even knowing what was coming I was still excited and on the edge of my seat. And isn't that all you want from against monster attacks big city film?

Not Quite, Actually.

    Okay, the film does have flaws. Mainly, the monster doesn't attack until about fifteen minutes in. The opening is of a party being thrown for Rob. And as I said earlier, the characters don't have that much in the way of personalities. The intro is slow and boring. I couldn't care less about these people. I don't feel for them when they are having dull romantic troubles at a party. I feel for them when a giant monster is breathing down their necks. Literally! Plus, not all of the acting is great. Yustman usually seems more lost than anything, Caplan is too "tough girl" to really like and Miller is hardly on screen (As he is the main cameraman). however, he still is usually annoying. Lets just say his voice isn't one we want to hear often.

Now's not the time for a party!
The Verdict

    Cloverfield is still be best found footage movie out there. The film makes great uses of the gimmick, wisely allowing the audience to feel of the characters in order to feel like we are actually there during the attack. The film is often very intense and at times surprisingly scary. The film also holds up well with repeated viewings, as this was my fifth time seeing this movie and I still enjoyed it as much as the last time. However, the film does get weighed down by it's slow and boring opening, one-dimensional characters and spotty acting. Overall, Cloverfield lived up to the mystery and still holds up today. Cloverfield gets 5 stars out of 6. Next time, get ready, cause we're taking up a cause.

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