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MOVIE REVIEW: Cloverfield [UPDATED]

Well, I bought into the hype of Cloverfield and went to go see it. OK, maybe it was more of an excuse to take half a day off of work, but see it I did. I kind of knew what to expect and in that I wasn’t disappointed. What I didn’t realize is how tiresome that could be.

Rather than go into a coherent, well thought-out review, here is something specially tailored for short attention spans of the Information Age: a list of the good and the bad…


THE GOOD

  • The handy-cam effect added much to the realism of the events. It was really difficult to not think of 9/11 when seeing the destruction of New York City.
  • The monster was genuinely scary because if that realism. You never really get a complete, clear picture of the monster besides a nice face shot near the end, and that made it less cheesy.
  • Without giving anything away, the monster had an “additional feature” that was pretty cool.
  • The human drama (and character motivation) was established relatively quickly before all hell broke loose.

THE BAD

  • The same handy-cam effect that added to the realism got old after thirty minutes. Not only was it hard to tell what was going on most of the time, but I’m one of those guys who suffered from dizziness effects of Half Life and this movie had me feeling nauseous about midway thorough. I suspect this might not be the case on a smaller screen.
  • Because of the first-person storytelling technique, the ending lacked closure. The story is not necessarily complete when the first-person point-of-view ends. It’s not difficult to realize what happened at the end, but questions (like the creature’s origin) remained unanswered. When the end credits started, there was this empty kind of feeling, like something was missing. (Several people in the sparsely-populated theater said it was a waste of money.)
  • Some dialogue was a bit forced. Characters said things that were unnatural under the guise of “camera glitch” simply to convey some story element that was not otherwise apparent.

BOTTOM LINE

I can see how this idea (Monster Movie for the YouTube Generation) looks good on paper, but the implementation left something to be desired. I wouldn’t quite say it was mediocre, but I can’t quite call it good, either.

FINAL RATING:

[See also: JP’s take]

Bonus: The final (and spoilery) post-credits whisper played in reverse, which points towards a sequel: boomp3.com

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

15 Comments on MOVIE REVIEW: Cloverfield [UPDATED]

  1. I have to agree with all you said. I eagerly went to Cloverfield with the glowing reviews from Aint It Cool News ringing in my head. When the movie was over I thought it was stunningly mediocre and made me realize that I gave WAY too much weight to some very amatuerish reviews.

    Then I had to ask why the movie was praised as so magnificent. I think it probably has to do with the age of the viewer. I’m in my early forties and found the movie tiresome. The camera-work had the opposite effect on me than what (I think) was intended: Rather than draw me in and make me feel like I was part of the action, I felt distanced by the whole thing. I kept seeing the POV as a gimmick and couldn’t help but notice how the camera always pointed at just the right action (jets blasting overhead, monster foot stomping tank, guy kissing girl, etc., etc.). Then there were the characters who were, frankly, boring.

    I think if I had been younger and perhaps less demanding I might have enjoyed the film for what it was supposed to be–a first person, on-the-ground experience of something terrifying. It really is nothing more than that: Cloverfield attempts to provide viewers the feeling of actually being in a city under siege by a giant monster. That’s it.

    In effect, Cloverfield make you feel like you’re watching someone else play a really cool video game. I need more from a movie.

    John

  2. I’m eighteen so i guess i haven’t seen a many movies as u. but i went to see cloverfield to be entertained and i was really entertained. i thought it was awesome. the strong points of the movie were so ood to me that it made me forget the bad points. i reaally just thought u got your moneys worth with the movie. it was fun

  3. Ewwww, handy-cam?? So it’s just Blair Witch in NYC? No, thanks! Can you save me the $8 and 1.5(?) hr and tell me what the creature is?

  4. I have to disagree, I loved it. In fact it’s the first movie that really scared me in 10 years. The Handy-cam did get a bit old, but for me it added to the feel of the movie. Which for me was “I stumbled on to this historical document of an invasion,” rather than watching a blockbuster like “James Cameron Presents KING KONG 08.

  5. I also disagree. The use of the cam added to the suspense and isolating knowledge – the viewer only knows what the characters know – really worked for me. It was a totally new way to tell a “monster movie” (which wasn’t really about the monster, but you guys already covered that in the other review) and I bought it.

    It wasn’t life-changing, but it was a good movie and I’m not upset by the money I spent.

  6. first of all let me express my discontent and dissapointment with the movie Cloverfield. Number one, whatever happened to good old movies that had a plot, conflict and a moral, whatever happened to scary movies that made you have nightmares at night? well they have been replaced by countless attempts of garbage called “movies” by directors and producers that feel the need to portray one of the greatest cities in the near future being destroyed(yes, I am a New Yorker). I AM Legend and Cloverfield to name a few recent ones. Cloverfield was a waste of film and waste of my money. Five minutes into the movie I felt like falling asleep. Half way through the movie, the camera shaking aggravated me because the movie wasn’t going anywhere and made me dizzy. By the way, GREAT realism shown in this movie: I’m amazed at how one of the creatures stabs the girl in the arm and she shows no pain, and the female protagonist is stabbed with this sharp item, and after is pulled out manages to run at full speed. Good job J.J. Abrams. 99% of the people in the theatre were upset and dissapointed, calling it “garbage” and a “big waste of time.”

  7. If the film had revealed the monster’s origin or had a more tidy sense of closure, it would have felt even more forced than those “unnatural” lines of dialogue used to convey story elements (which most every movie has anyway; it’s just easier to pick out in some.) When a film has the frame story of being on a tape found in the area “formerly known as Central Park,” it’s probably wise to presume a tidy ending is not in the cards.

    And on a side note, I’ve gotta get the type of camcorder used in the film. That thing has some durability and an awesome battery life.

  8. Cloverfield Ending Credits

    At the credits ending of Cloverfield, *Spoilers* the audio from the video cam says, “Help us!”. But when played backwards, it says, “It’s still alive!” This happens after the end credits of Cloverfield. Assuming the speaker was Rob, he suggests Cloverfield (the monster) is still alive. This also suggests a sequel for Cloverfield 2! *Spoilers*

    The Japanese oil company TAGRUATO drops a satellite (Chimpanz III) into the ocean as part of viral marketing (shown at the end of the movie when Rob and Beth were on the ferris wheel). TAGRUATO works with SLUSHO (a slush company), as the main ingredient for SLUSHO is found at the satellite dropzone (deep ocean). While searching for satellite and ingredients, they woke Cloverfield (the monster).

    The main ingredient of Slusho apparently turns a tiny fish into a HUGE whale, which explains the size of Cloverfield.

    Rob apparently was going to be the Vice President of TAGRUATO in Japan.

    Source from: http://www.cloverfieldendingcredits.com

  9. SPOILERS

    Something splashing down into the ocean near the end of the movie I saw. But the monster is NOT a giant mutated whale. It just isn’t. It’s either a new species that lives under the ocean, yet can breathe out of it and complete with a seriously bad case of dandruff, or it’s an alien create, also with bad dandruff. Seriously, you don’t want to be anywhere near it when the ‘flakes’ fall off.

    SPOILERS

  10. I loved this movie. I think the camcorder angle is brilliant, especially in the way it allows for the additional angle of giving us flashback material of what was previously recorded to the tape. Plus it’s a rollercoaster ride that [perhaps counter-intuitively] gets to feel real. I enjoyed this movie immensely. 3 1/2 stars (out of 4).

  11. So…the reason they called the movie “Cloverfield” is?

    NYC gets turned into a big patch of clover?

    :-$

  12. I thought the film was great. I too have not felt my hart race during a movie for a long time. Too many movies now a day provide you with all of the answers within the first 30 to 40 minuets and then the rest of the movie is all pointless action as someone tries to save the world. Plus in most other movies you see what’s attacking everyone.

    This movie puts you into the position as the average person that has no idea of what’s going on. Plus you only got glimpses of the creature for most of the movie.

    Possible Origin:

    During the movie the characters suggest many theories. One is that the creature was from outer space. At the end of the movie the Atlantic Ocean is in the background seen from Coney Island. On the right in the ocean is a yacht. If you look just past the yacht into the distance something streaks down out of the sky and crashes into the water. The time stamp on the tape is a month or two before the creature

    attacks.

  13. magicbeans // February 1, 2008 at 2:26 am //

    ” quote from Julisse ”

    first of all let me express my discontent and dissapointment with the movie Cloverfield. Number one, whatever happened to good old movies that had a plot, conflict and a moral, whatever happened to scary movies that made you have nightmares at night? well they have been replaced by countless attempts of garbage called “movies” by directors and producers that feel the need to portray one of the greatest cities in the near future being destroyed(yes, I am a New Yorker). I AM Legend and Cloverfield to name a few recent ones. Cloverfield was a waste of film and waste of my money. Five minutes into the movie I felt like falling asleep. Half way through the movie, the camera shaking aggravated me because the movie wasn’t going anywhere and made me dizzy. By the way, GREAT realism shown in this movie: I’m amazed at how one of the creatures stabs the girl in the arm and she shows no pain, and the female protagonist is stabbed with this sharp item, and after is pulled out manages to run at full speed. Good job J.J. Abrams. 99% of the people in the theatre were upset and dissapointed, calling it “garbage” and a “big waste of time.” k long enough?

    my response: It’s called adreniline, you’d be surprised of the shit people can do when their lives are on the line. In fact I thought that this was another great realistic part of the movie. To be honest the part that surprised me was her going back for the cameraman rather than following her fear and running like hell considering what it’d be like to have your childhood under the bed monsters actually coming to life πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

  14. I saw the movie, and I was suprised at how interesting it was. It was very intense. It was worth the money, and the camera angles and special effects were not disturbing at all. DEFINETELY a movie to at least rent! πŸ™‚

  15. I recently viewed the film “Cloverfield,” this movie was BOMB! I truly fell in love. The beginning made me happy, if you know what i mean. The “sex scene” was so amazing. I cannot even begin to describe the happy place it brought me to. The rest of the movie only got better. This whole movie was a delight. Very very very hot. MUY DELICIOSO πŸ˜›

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