Saturday, January 19, 2008

Jason watches "Cloverfield"

Okay, this has been eagerly anticipated on the ol' internet, so hopes are up and people are primed to be disappointed. Well, I wasn't. I can nitpick a few things, but all in all I think it's a great movie.

There's nothing I haven't seen before. Monster destroys New York--that's been done. It's really hard to come up with a new monster anymore. And as for hand-held camcorder "found footage", forget "Blair Witch" (I've tried, it's worth it), but I've seen that it tons of film festival movies. But merging the two techniques is something new. Camcorder films have always been from filmmakers who have no money, not enough money to simulate throwing the Statue of Liberty's head across the city (I assume they didn't actually do that!) And I'll give them credit for that, and for making a movie that's fast paced and completely enjoyable. And tons of credit for the SFX guys for blending the sophisticated effects shots with the hand held video. That couldn't have been easy.

The idea is new, but using so many borrowed techniques that it feels inevitable. If they hadn't made this movie, someone would have within a few years. It's odd for a movie to feel this original and this predestined.

Now I know some people won't like this movie (like the guy who got up at the end of the screening and started booing it). It does frustrate the audience in some ways. I know a lot of people won't be used to watching hand-held shaky cam pictures, and there are bits of scenes where it's hard to tell what exactly is happening (other than a lot of panicking). And some people will be frustrated by how you never get a good look at the monster. Personally, I think there are shots near the end that show too much, but the introduction scene is brilliant.

In any case, I think this will be a movie that will divide audiences. Those who can't take the disorientation of the hand held camera will hate it. Some will look right past that and see a plot that's something like the middle of a Godzilla movie, without a proper introduction or payoff. But me, I see it as a fun time and an impressive achievement in movie-making.

Oh, and as for the nitpicking I said I could do. Three things:

First, when Robert Hawkins is trying to check his messages on his cell phone (his girlfriend Beth left a message he couldn't quite hear earlier) he quiets everyone in the store. It gets really quiet--enough that you can hear her voice on the other side of the phone. Okay, maybe everyone in the store was quiet, but there's a giant fucking monster stomping around outside, with military guys firing at it! Are we to believe that the monster and the military both took a break so he could check his message?

Second, when they're all down in the subway system, they stay there for a while before deciding to walk the tunnels to midtown. That was my first instinct, why did it take them so long?! As it turns out, it's not a great idea. But if there's a monster stomping around outside and you can get where you want to go underground, that seems like a good idea.

And third, this is just a general complaint I always have about movies that are supposed to be camcorder found footage. There are times I just can't believe he'd keep filming what's happening rather than drop the camera and run. They try to cover that with the "people will want to know" quote. And I guess it works. I really shouldn't dismiss a whole category of films based on this nitpick, especially since one of my favorite movies, "Jimmy and Judy" uses that technique.

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