I finally got the chance to see Cloverfield today (in an almost empty cinema) and long after the initial hype and media craze has all but subsided, the film gave me what I would call a “rousing, cinematic experience.” While the buzz wasn’t quite as stinging here in Australia, the film exhibited plenty of presence around its release (same week), and most of those I spoke to regarding it were either lukewarm or wary of its appeal. Perhaps that sort of buzz is lost down under … who knows … nonetheless, after finally seeing it, I can safely say I was wrong about the film.
I had initially pushed it aside as nothing but a cheap cinematic gimmick, a hokey, B-movie type cash-in that would exploit audiences need for quick thrills and a sense of impending doom. Okay, so the shaky camera cinematography was a cheap gimmick, and yes, it was a little hokey and is screams “B-movie” from beginning to end, but its qualities together far outweigh the easily tagged pieces. Perhaps in a sense, when the producers combined all the aforementioned elements, the end result was something akin to cinematic magic- a rare occurrence in recent times. The plot itself is fairly simple: friends tape friend’s going-away party for future memories, friend is in love with best friend and vice versa, relationship quashed when one’s impending departure sets them apart … and then BAM! … monster attacks New York! And while it may be strange to say, all the lead up prior to the attack made a lot of sense- it created a likability about the characters and in a matter of minutes, I actually cared about them (equal parts believable interaction and sad video of a date to Coney Island). So when this big evil comes to destroy the city, I was afraid for them, scared with them, and desperately sad that some of them may very well not see the light of day.
Conversely, the monster itself was actually really well done. Friends who had seen it prior complained at its design and look, but I actually felt fear from it- something I did not with the likes of Godzilla, King Kong et al. It’s hard to be afraid of an on-screen monster these days, but Cloverfield’s monster was not only uniquely strange and mysterious, but deathly terrifying and believable (yeah, if there WAS a monster lurking in our ocean depths, there’s a good chance it would look the way this thing did). It’s all heightened in a way, by the perspective we’re given (on a side note: my friend who I went to see it with actually got sick during the film- a reaction I’m sure shared with many, but while I don’t revel in his misfortune, there was something hilarious about seeing him keeled over mid-film, green in the face, looking close to throwing up his lunch).
The question then is, would I see it again? The answer: Yes. Do I think there should be a 2nd Cloverfield movie? Hell no. Please don’t spoil this. It’s almost perfect in its cocoon-like cinematic mythology birthed from mystery trailers and unending speculation fueled by avid filmgoers and monster buffs.