Archive for January, 2008

Cloverfield

Posted in Reviews on January 17, 2008 by B33

The hype began back in June of 2007 when rumors flew back and forth about a new project by J.J. Abrams codenamed “Cloverfield.” The following month, the teaser was attached and shown in front of Transformers. The teaser stunned and caught movie goer’s everywhere off guard. Essentially, the film did not exist to anyone outside of Paramount, Bad Robot Productions, and any other studio involved in the creation of the film before the teaser was first revealed. And based on the box office records for Transformers, many were made aware of the films existence. Though even with the teaser trailer, only a minimal amount of information about the project was known. Paramount decided to implement various viral marketing techniques to promote the film and in doing so decided to withhold the films title from the teaser altogether. Large amounts of fans poured onto the internet to see if they could find anything about this film. All that was known up to that point was the following; it was a giant monster movie, J.J. Abrams was producing, the release date was set for January 18th, 2008 (1-18-08), and Matt Reeves was directing (that particular point was not well known until a little bit after the teaser hit).

In the following months, a few viral marketing websites emerged. There were numerous fake sites in their midst as well (which were quickly proven as much). The poster for the film emerged in late July in blurred photos taken with camera phones. Though it wasn’t until Comic Con that a definite copy emerged and J.J. Abrams teased fans yet again by not revealing the title and leaving them in the dark as he ended his portion of the Paramount panel. Updates and rumors continued to leak in from multiple sources. Eventually, the hyped died down and little was released as the film’s production continued…

Fans were eager to know and see more of the film. Though it wasn’t until November that the first rumors began emerging regarding the full fledged trailer. It was then presumed that Paramount would likely attach a new trailer for the film in front of the highly profiled Beowulf. Employees at various movie theaters then confirmed the trailers existence and confirmed that the end featured the title “Cloverfield.” It was officially confirmed on November 18th, 2007 when Beowulf hit. The hype began to skyrocket yet again for Cloverfield and the fan base was revived. From there, Paramount continued to release and update viral marketing sites, videos, and photographs that played upon the films back story. As the release date drew nearer and nearer, more hype built as commercials began circulating and the film became even more well known. Thus, we are now merely days away from the films release (as of this post) and the film so many have obsessed over will be released for the public to digest.

Fortunately, I was able to attend a early screening of the film on the night of January 15th, 2008. A co-worker and I arrived 2 and a half hours early and waited in line (we were at the front) and waited with another couple of individuals who were present around the same time as us. As time went on, more started to arrive and by the time the films show time neared, the line stretched all around the outside stretch of the Cinema. To pass time we discussed various films released around the present time to the classics as well. We received many confused looks when patrons attending the theater walked by wondering why such a large amount of people were waiting in front of the theater. At first, we simply stated the film and the general idea. Then, to pass time, we began to state films that brought odd looks on their faces. “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” “First Sunday,” etc (we essentially were just picking names off of the list of films feature on the list in Box Office). Strangely enough, the time seemed to go right by…

The basic idea to Cloverfield is the following; a group of friends throw a surprise farewell party for their friend named Rob, who is leaving for Japan after being hired by a company to market their new product for America (titled Slusho). Soon, a monster the size of a skyscraper attacks an oil tanker outside the city and soon begins wreaking havoc. Cloverfield is shot in a “hand held” camera sort of style that feels to have been inspired by “The Blair Witch Project” (though far more tame in comparison). The first 20 minutes consists of the farewell party and develops the characters you’ll be following throughout the film. Each one is easy to relate to and by the time all hells breaks loose, you feel as if someone you personally know is involved in this catastrophe of events. Those who are looking for all action will more then likely find the beginning tedious, but it does pay off later on.

The question I’m sure many will wonder is “Did it live up to the hype?”. That greatly depends on how you personally hyped the film. If you were expecting for the film to answer all of your questions and for a elaborate back story to be present (in the film itself), then your only setting yourself up for disappointment. Yes, there is a back story. But it’s not directly stated and most of it is left up to the audience to decipher and research (on the multiple viral marketing sites up) for themselves. In my opinion, the film lived up to the hype based on what it was aiming to accomplish. A monster attacks New York City and you are viewing the event through the eyes of a video camera. It is a recovered video tape recording. Nothing more, Nothing less. There is no prologue or epilogue to help clear things up. What you see is what you get with Cloverfield. And really, I think that’s what makes the film genius.

Another concern many want to know is the monster featured. I can guarantee you will see some very good shots of the monster when you see the film. And by good shots, I mean some very close ups. A majority are on ground level, but there are some surprises in store as well… What does the monster look like? I’ll leave it up to you to find out for yourself. But I will say that it looks like nothing you’ve ever seen before and the design is completely original. It’s hard to even begin to describe it. Suffice to say, it’s huge and pissed off. And your in for some insane shots and sequences involving the monster. And rest assure, it’s nothing like the “Whale” fan art released a couple months ago.

The shaky hand held camera technique used throughout the film is tied directly into the story. In essence, your watching a archived recording recovered from a camera that ties into a case designated “Cloverfield” by the U.S. Government. The camera is shot a majority of the time by HUD. He basically drives the film and is the humor, the soul, and overall personality present (though the other character do interact and help further develop things as well). Back on track with the hand held camera, the technique and overall style of it really helps draw you in and grab you. It’s amazing how the technique had multitudes of people on the edge of their seats and really involved. The whole film really made you believe you were watching actual footage of a monster attacking New York. The intensity combined with the amount of chaos and destruction also helped amp the tone up. With all this said, there is some amazingly brilliant shots and sequences throughout the film that helps progress the story. And the technique only furthers the suspense and horror aspect of the film.

The film does have it’s share of flaws. As great as the hand held camera technique worked, it will undoubtedly effect those susceptible to motion sickness. And there are points throughout that “convenience” is relied on more then necessary (such as the camera not breaking in certain spots). But in the end, it’s just a movie. It’s not reality and thus the rules can be bent and be forgivable. The run time might upset a few (clocking in at roughly a hour and a half) and the ending will more then likely be the main thing to piss of a few movie goer’s out there (it’s open ended). The film couldn’t have ended any other way and I enjoyed it for what it was worth. Just retain a open mind and digest the film for exactly what the original intentions were. Cloverfield has reinvented the monster film genre and how we perceive it. I would like to see more come from this film (not a franchise, mind you) and highly recommend it.

Conclusion: A well shot film that uses a technique rarely seen in cinema that helps deliver it and grab you. Suspense, horror, action, and even character development is present. A rather good surprise based on how hyped the film has become. The open ended ending and hand held camera technique might turn some away, but the film is still worth a shot, regardless.