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1-18-08. A date which has been in the back of my and everyone else's mind since early July. It all started with a teaser trailer before the theatrical release of Transformers, in which audiences were given a glimpse of JJ Abrams newest project, a monster movie of colossal proportions. I wish I could lie and say I didn't get swept up in its viral marketing scheme, but my fellow readers, I did just that. I've been following every website and video clip, even up to the last week, when there's been a few almost every day it seems. The one thing I would not do however, is look at interpretations or sketches of the monster. If I'm going to pay to see this movie, I want to be just as surprised as the rest of the audience by its first appearance. So after paying my $9.95 and settling into my seat, I was treated to a disappointing Blair Witch Project meets Godzilla mash up that really didn't do it for me.
Review by Tristan
Added: January 19, 2008
Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David) has just been promoted to vice president, and is moving to Japan for work. His brother Jason (Mike Vogel), Jason's girlfriend (Jessica Lucas) and his best friend Hud (T.J. Miller) are throwing him a surprise going away party. Only trouble is, Rob's in love with Beth (Odette Yustman) and after a previous falling out, the two part ways on bad terms. Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, a large explosion and a horrific growl shake the city. The party goers all rush out into the street just in time to see the Statue of Liberty's head come rolling down the sidewalk. Nobody knows what is going on until they see a massive creature moving through the streets, destroying buildings, eating civilians, and generally causing a ruckus. The film follows Rob, Hud and their friends as they are trapped in the city and desperately trying to survive while making their way to the center of Manhattan to rescue Beth who's been trapped in her apartment.
Do you remember how you felt watching Jurassic Park for the first time? You couldn't believe how realistic the dinosaurs looked, and because of this you felt that there really were dinosaurs terrorizing the civilians. This is not - I repeat - NOT the same experience you'll have with Cloverfield. You'll get a few flashes of the monster which are pretty unsatisfying, and when you finally get a good long look at the thing, you're too busy being annoyed with what's happening off camera to fully enjoy it. So we've got a monster movie that focuses more on some annoying characters that decide to bumble around the city instead of hiding underground somewhere.
This is a pretty big movie for newcomer Matt Reeves to kick off his directing debut with. Most directors slip into the field undetected until they release a real masterpiece that gets them recognized for their talents. Reeves' resume consists of a few episodes for some generic television shows. The same can be said for writer Drew Goddard who, aside from a few television shows, hasn't had a lot of experience. He was however, a writer on the hit series Lost, which as most of you know, is one of the best shows currently offered up to our generation. While this movie is frequently compared to the Blair Witch Project, it really doesn't have much in common besides the hand held camera. The shots are very fast, and the movie moves along at an incredible pace. What's truly amazing about this, is the amount of work that must have gone into creating these visual effects while everything is filmed on a hand held camera. I don't know anything about post-production, but I would imagine this was a lot more difficult than simply tossing a CGI monster into a steadicam shot.
The actors, or should I say "people on screen" don't really offer up much emotion or any personality traits with which the audience can connect. Sure, Rob's trying to rescue Beth and his friends stupidly follow along because we all know that in a time of crisis, the best thing to do is run back into the chaos rather than cut your losses. So you've got a romantic angle, the wise-cracking best friend, and the newly de-boyfriended tag along. Not the most original character ideas, and the characters playing them were quite unbelievable.
Overall, this movie was pretty disappointing. After all the viral marketing hoopla, I expected it to be much better than it was, and have a little more meat to it. It will obviously do very well at the box office, but I would imagine it will die down very quickly. If you plan on seeing it, go to the theatre and see it, as that's really the only way it could be watched. When I stop and think about it, I don't know why it's getting such rave reviews, because it really wasn't all that impressive.
When I first saw the trailer for "Cloverfield" I remember thinking - "It's Godzilla". I mean, what else could it be? J.J. Abrams tried to do the whole super secret marketing campaign, but what else is sending the head of the statue of liberty flying around like a ping pong ball? It sure as hell isn't Osama Bin Laden. He hates freedom, but that might be overkill, even for him. So, the big question has been - what does the creature look like? Is it Godzilla? Is it the StayPuft Marshmellow Man? Finally, those answers have been solved with the release of "Cloverfield", which has turned out to be the "Snakes On A Plane" of 2008, and the year isn't even a month old. The film comes to us from director Matt Reeves, who helmed "The Pallbearer" starring David Schwimmer. We won't judge him on his past endeavors; at least, we will try not to. What "Cloverfield" made me realize was - there's really only a few ways to destroy a city and we've already them all. You can either do it with a tidal wave, an earthquake, a creature, an explosion or a Garth Brooks concert. So, if you've seen one city destroyed, you've seen them all, right? Right. "Cloverfield" doesn't offer anything new in that department. I suppose it makes for good popcorn entertainment, but I can't help but feel like "Cloverfield" relied too heavily on what it thought was a cool device.
The picture opens with a color bar and the statement that the footage we are about to see was recovered from Central Park in New York City. We then head into some random slices of video from our main characters. We've got Rob Hawkins (Michael David-Stahl), who is moving to Japan for work. He's being thrown a surprise going away party by his brother Jason (Mike Vogel), Jason's girlfriend Lily (Jessica Lucas) and his best friend Hud (T.J. Miller). During the party, all hell breaks loose in the Big Apple. There are explosions, people being eaten and a whole lot of mass chaos and no one seems to know what it is - that is, until we see a huge ass three toed sloth tearing up the city. Houston, we have a problem. The film follows the group of friends as they try to make it to safety, and then follows them as Rob goes after the girl he loves, Beth (Odette Yustman), who is bleeding and trapped in her apartment building in the middle of the city. We basically get a lot of scenes of people running around with the camera going every which way, and then an equal amount of scenes of strained emotional acting, or should I say attempted emotional acting. The most realistic of all the performances came from the creature, whom I have nicknamed Sloth. And, no, not the lovable mentally retarded oaf from "The Goonies". This Sloth has a particularly nasty attitude.
What really could have driven this story was a human element. Maybe that was attempted, but it did not come off at all. You've got the lead guy, Rob, whose hands never get dirty - literally, his hands are almost always clean. You've got Hub, who is there for comic relief, and his jokes and witty banter during the most shocking situations is just plain ridiculous. And then there's good old Beth, who couldn't act her way through an Ed Wood film. The filmmakers were trying to make this film look like a realistic account of what would happen during an attack like this. It didn't work so well because everything these 'supposed realistic' characters did was cliched and formulaic. If people in real life are supposed to make the same stupid mistakes as people in fantasy, does that mean the human race is universally stupid? "Cloverfield" is "The Blair Witch Project" meets an amped up version of "Godzilla". I don't think the two blend well together. There was too much of the whole camera shaking around thing. I find it difficult to believe, during all they encountered, the camera did not somehow become broken or lost or messed up in any way. Not to mention, that battery has the longest life I have ever seen. And, since when did the mic from a camera like that every pick up so well? Realism takes a hike when you need to hear the damned actors.
There are a few good things about the picture - like I said, it entertained me. The most evident positives are the two leads - Michael Stahl-David and Mike Vogel. Why? Because they're hot, hot, hot - that's why. Neither is an exceptionally strong actor, but they can get away with it because they are absolutely adorable. As for the ladies, they don't fare so well. Odette Yustman is beyond awful in her role - she looks and talks just like Jessica Alba, and if any creature decides to attack any part of the United States, my hope would be that he would take Jessica Alba first and foremost, and then go straight for her look alikes. There is also a neat scene reminiscent of "Alien" where the Army guys try and quarantine one of them - need shadow movement. I also enjoyed the scene in the tunnel with the night vision. I've seen it before, but it was still nicely done. It's just so hard for me to totally appreciate the entertainment value of a film that throws logic out the window whenever it is given the opportunity. No one talks the way people would talk, no one acts the way people would act and no one points up to the sky and shouts, "Godzilla! Godzilla!" With a name like "Cloverfield", I was hoping maybe the creature was some sort of giant leprechaun, scouring the city for his missing pot of gold. What the hell does "Cloverfield" even mean? Was it some sort of government experiment, and if it was, why did they enlarge a three toed sloth? Was it an alien? Was it a dinosaur? Some times, questions are better left unanswered. Not this time.
C'est la vie, the first big 'blockbuster' of the year. I will give J.J. Abrams & Company kudos for running one hell of a strong marketing campaign. We'll see if it pays off in the way they hoped. I can't tell you not to see the film because I was entertained and it never bored me. It annoyed me from time to time, but I'd rather be annoyed and entertained than happy and bored. "Cloverfield" takes an overused sub-genre and really adds nothing new to it. What it does add was added back in 1999 with a little film called "The Blair Witch Project". The special effects are well done and the creature was intimidating enough, I suppose. But, really - you could make the creature a three hundred foot tall Shirley Temple and it would still be petrifying. "Cloverfield" does do one thing, however, that many films have never been able to do. It was able to show the world that no matter what happens - no matter what explosions you have to hide from, no matter what wounds you have to bandage, no matter what dirt you have to crawl through - you can still have spotless hands the entire time. "Cloverfield" - the secret is out. It's "Godzilla". You heard me. Raaaaar!
- added 01/18/2008, 10:23 AM
4/10? Ouch, I'll be catching this later on
tonight. I have no expectations for it, so
hopefully I'll walk out of the theater happy.
- added 01/18/2008, 10:55 AM
I didn't read your review for fear of spoilers,
but in the last few months I've had a real sinking
feeling about this movie. Namely, that it's more
fluff and style over making a good monster movie.
Judging by your low score, I may not have been
right on the mark.
- added 01/18/2008, 01:42 PM
Huh. I suppose I'll still go see it. Your opinion
has been wrong before (though I almost trust you
completely on this one).
grain of sand
- added 01/18/2008, 07:44 PM
this was pretty cool, not exactly what I was
expecting though. I'm not let down, definitely
should only see this in theatres..
- added 01/18/2008, 09:49 PM
Just got back from seeing it. I'm not sure what
to say. After the first half hour or so I was
thinking "lame, lame lame!" But then it finally
got entertaining. I would have to say that I
pretty much knew what was going to happen during
select scenes, which is a shame. I went in with no
expectations, and since I sat there and watched
the movie, I would say it did it's job. A score
between 5-7 would be accurate in my opinion. I
also agree with grain of sand. This movie needs to
be seen in theaters, as watching this on a DVD
would seem lame.
- added 01/19/2008, 01:21 AM
I had a lot of fun at this film. I never expected
it to be anything amazing, but the experience was
definitely a lot of fun. The creature looked
really badass, and the film was actually pretty
intense and terrifying at times. I just kinda
wished it had ended 10 minutes earlier (surviving
a helicopter crash? PUH-LEASE). All in all, it was
a lot of fun at the cinemas. Oh, and kudos to the
sound guys. 8/10
- added 01/19/2008, 03:11 PM
I have been on the fence about this one but I'm
going to see it tonight with the lady. One thing
though waxtadpole: some people haven't seen the
movie, so writing what happens in the end kind of
kills a part of the movie.
- added 01/20/2008, 01:29 AM
GOD DAMMIT I'm an IDIOT. I wish we could edit
posts so I could put spoilers in my post. >_<
Anyone reading this, DON'T read my other post if
you haven't seen the movie.
- added 01/20/2008, 01:45 AM
OMG! You ruined it for me! How could you!? This
splinded peice of art would have been ten times
more amazing if you hadn't...
one was actually pretty boring. Nothing happened
that the trailers didn't imply would happen. Not
to mention the "realism" of the shaky-cam got
nauseating very quick. "The Blair Witch Project"
wasn't even that fucking incomprehinsible 92% of
the time. The acting wasn't awful or anything
but... eh... I could have done with some of them
being able to do something other than scream. I
did love the effects though, they looked very nice
(as was to be expected).
All in all,
just more proof that Americans have truly lost the
ability to make an amzing giant-monster movie
(especially when it had as much potential as this
- added 01/20/2008, 01:48 AM
Typo noted: 5.8/10
- added 01/20/2008, 03:22 PM
I loved it. Three-toed sloth? What the fuck? It
was an evil monster thing. 9/10
- added 01/20/2008, 08:30 PM
This movie is gonna make mad money at the box
office. It wade $41 million in just 3 days in
theaters. The movie only had a budget of
$25million, so I'm pretty sure the studios are
- added 01/20/2008, 08:37 PM
That's your 3rd comment in three days. Keep it up
and this will be the #1 viewed movie on the
I gave it a 7, I wasn't overly
impressed, but I wouldn't mind watching it in
theatres again. For all it's faults, it had a
couple of standout scenes and aspects that are
sticking in my mind.
- added 01/21/2008, 08:01 PM
It still looked like a three toed sloth, evil or
- added 01/22/2008, 09:19 AM
Usually I agree with one of two of the reviewers
on this site, namely because I know a decent
amount about film but they know more. However,
given that I feel the acting was believable, no
one made any horribly unintelligent decisions (who
wouldn't try to say someone they're in love with?)
and the action was well-paced, I have to say I had
minor to no complaints about this one. Sorry
blue, but I give it a 9/10.
- added 01/22/2008, 12:11 PM
Everyone made believable decisions? The most
glaring mistake of all -- when the chopper crashed
and they survived -- knowing that the government
was about to bomb the shit out of the place, why
didn't they go back to the subway? Back
underground? Having been to New York, there are
several stops adjacent to Central Park, and being
New Yorkers themselves, they would have known
that. Maybe it wasn't a lack of believability,
but a surplus of stupidity.
- added 02/11/2008, 05:27 PM
SPOILERS: I sure have learned one thing this year
thanks to this and AVP2 - surviving a helicopter
crash is really fucking easy.
- added 03/17/2008, 09:27 PM
why did so many people have such a bad reaction
to this amazing movie? and you better not say,
"...because it wasn't amazing."
- added 03/19/2008, 10:23 AM
But, what better response than the most logical
-- it was NOT an amazing movie. Done to death.
Nothing utterly original. Mediocre acting. You
need more? I think that is quite enough.
- added 04/01/2008, 12:29 AM
you can't have amazing acting in something that
is suppose to be all real and shit
- added 04/01/2008, 06:24 AM
Cloverfield was real? It really happened? I had
- added 04/01/2008, 10:12 AM
you can't have amazing acting in something
that is suppose to be all real and shit
That is such a ridiculous comment. "The
Blair Witch Project" was supposed to be real and
the acting was phenomenal. All of Christopher
Guest's films are -- technically -- 'supposed to
be real', even though they're not -- and his
actors are always amazing. You can't say it's OK
for the actors to be bad just because they're
supposed to be real. That is absurd.
- added 04/09/2008, 10:38 AM
I skipped reading the reviews and comments on
this site until just now, as I wanted to be
totally surprised during my first viewing. Wow,
I'm shocked at some of the comments on this page,
as I thought this was an excellent movie. It was
extremely realistic (except for that helicopter
scene, as mentioned above), the monster looked
great, and the way the story was told was perfect
(read: we see what the characters see and we
didn't get the obligatory "scientist pops up out
of nowhere to explain everything" scene). With
the exception of the lady who played Beth, I had
no problems with the acting; they may not have
been award-winners, but they acted realistically
and kept me in the mood.
about the audio / video thing bluemeanie mentioned
in his review - yeah, that might have been
stretching things a bit, but it wouldn't have been
a very exciting film if the battery had died or if
the camera broke thirty minutes into the movie,
and it would have sucked if we couldn't hear a
damned thing the characters were saying. A bit
unrealistic, yes, but that was mandatory in my
Not quite a perfect
film, but I loved it. 9/10.
- added 04/09/2008, 01:56 PM
It was unoriginal. Everything is tried has been
done before in a plethora of other films. I can't
enjoy a film with zero originality and a film that
goes along as if the audience has no common sense
whatsoever. Much better films about monsters
- added 04/09/2008, 04:18 PM
Everything has been done before to some degree -
you name any recent horror movie (that I've seen),
and I could name off a handful of movies that it
borrowed from. I'll concede that this borrowed
liberally from other "big monster" movies
(Godzilla and The Host, mostly), and of course,
there's the whole Blair Witch camera thing... but
is that really a bad thing if the movie works?
Also, I enjoyed The Host more than this one, but
aside from that, this has to be my favorite of the
"monster versus city" releases.
Difference of opinion, I suppose, but I'll
definitely be purchasing this.
- added 04/10/2008, 10:09 AM
Yes, difference of opinion. But this whole
"Everything has been done before" attitude from
people is so old. Everything has NOT been done
before to some extent. You can take an idea that
has been done before and do something original
with it. And you can come up with completely new
ideas and concepts to. The well has not been
tapped out yet, but this film sure makes it seem
like it has.
- added 04/10/2008, 10:54 AM
In that case, how many monster movies have you
seen that feature the "you are there" style of
storytelling besides this one? None that I've
- added 04/10/2008, 12:06 PM
How many? I would consider both "The Blair Witch
Project", but especially "The Last Broadcast" to
be 'monster movies', most notably the latter. All
this movie is is "The Blair Witch Project" meets
"Godzilla". It's really just an American remake
of "Godzilla", minus Matthew Broderick, and the
creature is lame. It looks like a damned three
toed sloth. Ain't nothing scarier than that.
- added 04/10/2008, 02:17 PM
It doesn't look like a three-toed sloth, and what
are you really hoping for? If you have some
amazing monster all drawn up in your head, I'm
sure we'd be glad to hear about it. It's 2008, all
the monster ideas have already been done to death.
They needed a monster to look as though it came
from the sea, and that's exactly what it looks
like. I kind of regret only giving this a 7/10
now, because aside from the helicopter scene and a
bit of bad acting, it was very entertaining. I
think the "no mad scientist with a plan" angle was
a fresh change, and as far as being from the point
of view of the people living in NY at the time,
I'd say they did a damn fine job. After
re-watching it, and giving it some hard though,
I'm going with an 8/10.
- added 04/10/2008, 03:20 PM
The creature looked great, but I can see where
you're / he's coming from with the sloth thing,
can't deny that one.
two movies did the "you're there" thing before
this one (remember how I said everything has been
done before?), but it's never been done with a
monster movie (and by monster movie, I mean a huge
monster that can attack a city) - that's the point
I was trying to make. And to take a quote from
you: "You can take an idea that has been done
before and do something original with it."
- added 04/10/2008, 04:00 PM
This is quite the controversial movie. I still
think it was a great movie, it had a a few flaws
and things that one can squabble about, but
overall I felt that the monster movie genre was
somewhat refreshed with this outing. I know I'll
probably get flak, but that's just my opinion.
I've seen the old third-party perfect camera
angles before where everything feels so set up and
focused all the time, this one made me feel like I
was either watching a real attack on tape or there
myself. It was both fun and frightening,
especially the subway scene.
- added 04/10/2008, 04:04 PM
The key word there is 'original'.
- added 04/17/2008, 11:01 PM
that's totally not what i meant. i just mean it
was suppose to look real. if angelina jolie was in
it, it totally wouldn't be the same
- added 05/25/2008, 03:07 AM
This was better than I had been led to believe,
and I actually hadn't read any of the reviews here
until after I just watched it. If I hadn't just
seen [REC] last night I would almost certainly
have given this a higher rating, but still , I
enjoyed it, I felt like the actions the characters
took were realistic, the helicopter crash
notwithstanding, and it was just a good monster
movie, not as good as "The Host", but
still : 7/10.
- added 05/25/2008, 02:52 PM
This was basically a piece of poop painted in
dazzlingly bright colors...
even begin to note all the unrealistic moments in
this film because the word limit in these comment
boxes won't allow it (running sequences with a
woman whom just moments earlier had her lung
pierced by a piece of rebar and laid bleeding
unchecked for far over the few minutes it would
have taken to die from hydrostatic shock)...), but
suffice it to say, that even aside from the
ridiculous hand-held camera accuracy we as an
audience are supposed to swallow... this film had
plenty other of problems to contend with!
I live in New York City folks... and the
way that critter moved was beyond implausible...
downtown,uptown, crosstown... then instantly
downtown again... it just didn't make any sense.
I understand that they were wary of repeating
locations used in prior films released at the
time, but better care could have been taken.
The acting was practically nonsensical at
points... sure, I MIGHT have the temporary
insanity to try and rescue an EX while fleeing for
my life from an unknown monster bent on killing
everyone around me... but I seriously doubt that
anyone else (especially a few folks that had just
seen their friends/boyfriend/loved ones brutally
slain in front of them) would follow me into a
half-wrecked building that was on the precipice of
falling into ruin to risk their lives to assist me
in locating a past fling who was probably a
crimson smear among the carnage that was once her
apartment building!!! Please people... just
because it looks gritty and cool, doesn't mean
that it makes any sense!
With even a
modicum of insight (and perhaps a better script)
this could have been something quite special...
maybe. Why did we have to see it all from one
group's perspective? Why couldn't the "file
contain multiple views or observation experiences
from varied sources to imply a wider sense of
PS: The monster is a rip-off
of Orga, the critter from "Godzilla
- added 05/25/2008, 02:59 PM
Sorry about the rant... but as a champion of the
"monster attacks city" genre, I felt
that I needed to speak my piece.
easily the slickest representation of the theme,
that's for sure... but that's about it.
whole thing screams "TV Director" to
me... but again, this is all my humble
I'm glad a lot of you folks
liked it though... it's box-office earnings will
serve as example to the good folks at Toho that
the giant monster (kaiju) film is still viable
these days! I want to wash "Final Wars"
from my palate as soon as possible...
I give it a 6 out of 10... and only that for the
convincingly obscured special effects.
- added 01/20/2009, 03:57 PM
One of my favorites of 2008. 10/10
- added 04/16/2009, 12:43 AM
I think all of you people crying foul on the
realism were expecting too much. When it comes to
these giant monster movies, a very healthy
suspension of disbelief is a must. And yes, that
includes character logic. And as for Beth and her
lack of acting skills, I'm willing to forgive her
there because she's hot as hell. As per usual
with "you are there" flicks, I hated the
approach (BWP is the only time I've appreciated
it), but the "flashback" gimmick to the
day at Coney Island was a pretty cool idea. I
didn't like the creature itself though; I thought
it was too spindly and the inverted front legs
made it look really awkward. All in all, the movie
was mildly entertaining. It exceeded my
expectations, which were extremely low. I'd
probably go about 5.5 or a 6.
- added 04/16/2009, 08:59 PM
Lotsa problems with those flashbacks even still
being within the film proper if it was filmed the
way the story purports it to be...
so much that folks expect "realism", so
to speak... it's just that utter stupidity and bad
storytelling tends to bog down the narrative.
If the film didn't try so hard to project
a sense of "you are there realism"...
then it's complete failure to achieve this
wouldn't be so glaringly noticeable;)
Still, your rating matches mine... we're on the
- added 07/11/2010, 02:52 AM
It was ok, but the acting was awful, and the
monster looked stupid. However, I would have
loved to see Lizzy Caplan naked on here. 4/10