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Spoiler Alert! Important plot details are revealed in this review.
Half of my motivation, ok maybe more than half, for going to see Cloverfield was to see the first trailer for the new Star Trek Movie. It's a teaser trailer but I have to say that it gave me chills when I heard Leonard Nimoy's voice-over,"Space, the Final Frontier," and the familiar music swelled as I watched the Enterprise under construction. This trailer was attached to Cloverfield because its producer, J.J. Abrams, the creator of Lost, is also the director of Star Trek XI. But, nevertheless, I was curious to see Cloverfield. It turns out that it is one of those movies that can be described in one sentence. Imagine The Blair Witch Project set in New York City where the stalkers are Godzilla and the facehuggers from Alien.
Therefore, it may be somewhat redundant to say that Cloverfield is very derivative. First of all, it is not even the first recent movie to destroy New York City. I Am Legend is a much better example of an end-of-the-world movie. Many movies in the past have destroyed New York. I have shown a few examples above and below of how the Statue of Liberty is used as a metaphor not only for the destruction of New York city but of civilization itself.
New York City is trashed yet again in Cloverfield. The movie begins at a yuppie going away party for a man (Michael Stahl-David) leaving the country. His brother (Mike Vogel) and his brother's girlfriend (Jessica Lucas) have organized the party. The guy going away is pining over a woman (Odette Yustman) who appears at the party with another man in tow. One of the going-away guy's best friends, nicknamed Hud (T.J. Miller), is given the job of interviewing all the partygoers on his digital camera. He has the hots for another woman (Lizzy Caplan) at the party who gives him the bum's rush. Now, that the movie has spent 10 minutes developing the characters, the scene is set and all hell breaks loose. Tremors are felt, the power goes off, large explosions are seen. Soon large pieces of skyscrapers and even the Statue of Liberty (see below right) are flying through the air. Soon, what's left of the partiers, the going-away guy, the woman who can't stand Hud, the brother's girlfriend (seen below left) and Hud are trying to escape. Hud still has the camera. This is why Cloverfield is The Blair Witch Project redux. The whole movie is shown as if it had been filmed with Hud's camera. If you get motion sickness, then you might want to take some Dramamine before going to the theatre.
I won't say much more about the plot except that soon our heroes are running toward trouble rather than away from it, as our heroes always do in this kind of movie. The military arrives to evacuate the populace and to attack the monster in true Godzilla movie fashion. Yes, there is some kind of monster, who doesn't look like Godzilla, but who has Godzilla's poor coordination and keeps bumping into buildings and knocking them down. And there are other nasty things in the dark that are right out of Alien. And we see it all through Hud's eyes through the camera.
Cloverfield is an interesting movie. But it's also frustrating and difficult to watch. The Blair-Witchian camera work made me just close my eyes in some scenes. And then after a while I was so sick and tired of Hud and his friends that I wanted them all to die. I had this same feeling halfway through The Blair Witch Project. Frankly, I was more worried about New York being destroyed than these idiots. And Cloverfield isn't even a long movie. It just feels long. That being said, it moves along nicely. After the first "boom," the action never stops. Even though it cost $30 million, this is a low-budget action-horror-thriller flick with a cast that are all unknowns. The only person I recognized was Jessica Lucas who just replaced Jorja Fox on CSI. The casting was done on purpose to enhance the youtube-like quality of the video, I mean major motion picture.
I'm being a bit critical here but J.J. Abrams knows what he is doing. I think Cloverfield has tremendous appeal to the average moviegoer, i.e. an 18 year old. After all, Cloverfield made $46 million last weekend. This movie is like watching a youtube video, just a really long one. And going-away guy risks his life early in the movie because he needs a new battery for his cellphone. I just hope the 18-year-olds get all the metaphors. Not only is the Statue of Liberty destroyed, but every minute that Hud films as the movie goes on, he is recording over a video of going-away guy and the love of his life on their only date. Now that's deep.