If I had known the entire movie was going to be shot through a hand-held camera like Blair Witch Project, I might have held off on seeing Cloverfield until it hit cable rather than plunking down nine bucks at the theater.
The plot is simple: five twenty-something New Yorkers are trying to rescue a friend in Manhattan in the midst of a giant monster’s rampage through the city. They happen to be carrying a camera, and it is through this camera that the entire flick is shot. The plot isn’t terrible, and the characters are a lot more interesting than the Blair Witch characters, but the first-person business gets real old, real quick for me. If you hated Blair Witch, you will probably be just as frustrated with Cloverfield.
At this point, if you haven’t seen the flick and you want to avoid spoilers, then stop reading. Maybe you can check out some great artwork instead.
I completely understand what JJ Abrams and director Matt Reeves were trying to accomplish with the way the flick is told and shot, so anyone wanting to defend the flick by telling me “you don’t get it, Mike!” can just save the keystrokes. My beef with these flicks is the way they go out of their way to make the film look poorly shot. For example, during an action sequence, the last thing I want to see is long segments of running feet or spinning kaleidoscopes of blurry light.
Why couldn’t the flick be shot by embedded journalists? Why not an experienced camera man and a quick-thinking reporter interviewing refugees and soldiers they encounter rather than a pinhead amateur? This was made particularly obvious when the characters go into an electronics store and the guy with the camera points it at a television and we get to watch the news with him for a few moments. Instead of making a big-budget Blair Witch, why not cobbling together disparate news sources and amateur video to tell the larger tale?
Then, of course, the flick would be about the monster, not the love story between the leader of the group and his girlfriend trapped in a fallen building on the other side of the city. Again, compelling characters, and there are some great touches such as when Mom calls the main character. However, if I’m going to a monster movie, I’d like to see more than just two seconds at a time of said monster. They try to make up for this with a shot at the end, but it’s so obviously CGI and cheesy that I felt like I was watching Disney’s Dinosaur rather than a monster movie.
If you hate loose ends, especially the loose ends Abrams leaves us with on Lost, you’ll have another reason to hate Cloverfield. It makes sense not to share the monster’s origin in the movie because the characters have neither the time nor the resources to figure this out (determined folks can pick up clues at the Slusho website and by following its links), but it’s the rest of the things that go unresolved that bother me.
First, one character gets on a chopper and is whisked away. Did they make it or not? Is there any reason they couldn’t be telling us the story? Or that this character couldn’t be used in a sort of epilogue as they’re debriefed by the military?
Second, another character is dragged away by the military and quarantined. We get a spray of blood and the camera’s gone. What happened? Did something come out of this character, like a chestburster from Alien? Did some pustule explode? Did the doctor cut the character open in emergency surgery?
Last and most disconcerting is we don’t even know what becomes of the monster itself. We see it shrugging off gunfire, rockets, missiles, tank rounds, and even carpet bombing. How are we supposed to know if the grand finale finished it off? I’m okay with open endings in general, but you’ve got to give me some indication that there was a resolution. It was for this reason alone that most of the folks in our theater walked out grumbling. One person yelled “That’s it?” when the credits rolled, and someone an aisle or two ahead of me leaned over to a friend and said “What a ripoff.” Several of us stayed through the credits, hoping there would be some teaser or alternate ending or something a the end, but no joy.
Again, yes, I understand the monster is not the point of the movie, and we do get resolution with the main chracters. Unfortunately I expected a lot more from the flick, so it just isn’t for me. I suspect it’s going to be a case of love or hate for most viewers.
If you can live with all that, by all means, get thee to the theater. Despite some hokey moments, I was fine with the plot and characters. If you want a monster movie and hate all the loose ends, save your money.
About Mike Oliveri
Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.