Movie Review: Cloverfield (2008)

Holy viral marketing campaign, Batman. Cloverfield, the latest production from J.J. Abrams (best known for Lost and Alias), may be the most hyped movie of the decade. It was pure genius – the whole country had vivid images of the Statue of Liberty’s head rolling down the Avenue of the Americas for weeks prior to it arriving in theaters. But, the downside to this monstrous onslaught of hype is: can the movie live up to its forecasted potential?

Almost. Nothing can live up to that kind of expectation (I suspect sleeping with Alessandra Ambrosio very well might); although director Matt Reeves does a commendable job keeping viewers interested after the initial awe has faded. The first thing that smacks you in the face like a Mike Tyson punch (in his prime) is the notion that Cloverfield is not going to be your ordinary monster movie like Godzilla. For the first 20 minutes or so, there is absolutely no mention of any creature. Hell, aside from one scene, the creature is almost always hidden from view! It’s also told from a first-person vantage point, captured wholly on a Sony Handycam, in a The Blair Witch Project-y sort of way. Both of these methods help to build the intensity and make you feel like you are a part of the movie as it happens.

It all starts off innocently enough with a party. Hud Platt (T.J. Miller), Jason Hawkins (Mike Vogel), Lily Ford (Jessica Lucas), Marlena Diamond (Lizzy Caplan) and many others are throwing a goodbye bash for Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David). He’s landed himself a dream job and in the next days will be relocating to Japan (irony at its finest). But all is not well at the party, as Rob’s ex-girlfriend Beth McIntyre (Odette Yustman) – a girl he still happens to love – arrives in the company of another man. After confronting her, she leaves in a huff – and like a light switch being flicked off, that’s when the world changes forever for everyone.

Something is absolutely laying waste to Manhattan. Explosions light up the sky and skyscrapers crumble to the ground. In a dramatic play, Reeves uses the effect of 9/11 to drum up the horror citizens of the Unites States felt – dust columns overtaking people in the streets, people frantically rushing to safety over the Brooklyn Bridge, Air Force jets flying overhead – and uses it to its fullest potential. If there weren’t fleeting glimpses of this “thing” mindlessly thrashing about the streets, one could easily link the happenings to another terrorist success story.

Anyways, Rob comes to the conclusion that he can’t leave Beth behind (she calls him on his cellphone), so along with Merlena, Lily and Hud, he leaves the protective blanket of the Army and heads back into the maelstrom. I’m not going to go much into detail, but there are a few interesting moments captured by Hud with his trusty camera; most notably their introduction to It’s offspring.

Of course inconsistencies abound, but they have to happen to let the Cloverfield story unfold. Amazingly, everyone has a mobile phone that isn’t receiving an “all circuits are busy” message. I don’t know about you, but I’m switching my service plan to that carrier. Through it all, that trusty camcorder keeps right on recording – no amount of drops can slow it down and battery drain . . . what’s that?. I shouldn’t have to mention the fact that once the Army possesses you in an emergency, they’ll never let you walk away – not even for love – but amazingly enough they show them to the door and even open it for them.

Aside from these, and other less pronounced oddities, Cloverfield delivers on all fronts. You feel the confusion and fear the characters experience as they’re running through the streets. You even care about their outcome, even though for the most part they’re all interchangeable. The use of the monster that we see so little of and know even less about, is very well done. The lack of explanation makes it all the more scarier and creepier. With this as the first mega-release of the year, 2008 has started off on the right foot.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
4 Star Rating: Good


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The Critical Movie Critics

I'm an old, miserable fart set in his ways. Some of the things that bring a smile to my face are (in no particular order): Teenage back acne, the rain on my face, long walks on the beach and redneck women named Francis. Oh yeah, I like to watch and criticize movies.

'Movie Review: Cloverfield (2008)' have 7 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    January 28, 2008 @ 7:15 pm Nick

    I agree with your thoughts on ‘inconsistencies’. They drive a stake through a movie’s heart. A great many of them in Cloverfield could have and should have been avoided.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    February 11, 2008 @ 3:15 pm RAD

    Talking about inconsistencies, the movie timeline is supposed to be the events that happened on 1-18-08. The pictures in the “official” website point on that way…every photo (almost) has the time and date at the bottom…they all show “1-18-08”. Near the end (NOT SPOILER) one of the characters points out that the date is March 23 on tape…

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 8, 2008 @ 11:57 am Blake

    It’s a friggin Godzilla movie shot with a camcorder. Whoopie doo.

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    April 5, 2008 @ 12:03 am Gear

    Many people didn’t like the camcorder affect, but without it… this movie would have been a turd, or maybe I should say 5 turds considering where I’m posting.

    The camcorder style pulled me into the film much more than a normal production would have. I put a lot of stock in a movie that can make me forget that I’m sitting in a theater or on my couch. Without that, it would have just been another boring godzilla type movie.

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 29, 2009 @ 2:47 pm Gerald Jones

    Actually 1-18-08 was the release date for the film, not when the events in the film were supposed to take place. If you were paying any attention whatsoever to the date and time on the camcorder (that was almost always present at the bottom of the screen) you’d have realized that the date that Rob and Beth had at Coney Island was on Apr 27th and the events of the film took place on May 22 and 23rd, nearly a month later.

    I’m not being over analytical, just casually observant.

    And the character in question at the end of the film points out that it’s May 23rd, not Mar 23rd.

    To anyone wondering. The events recorded on the camcorder total about 90 mins. Of the seven hours that the film takes place in only an hour and a half was actually recorded on that camera. And thing was dropped like 3 or 4 times, which is about 96 times less times than I have dropped my camcorder or cell phone or DVD remote control and you know what? They all still work fine.

    During an all out calamity, where people are running for their lives and being evacuated from a major metropolitan city, I don’t think too many people are going to be gabbing on the phone. So to the article referencing busy cell networks I say that is a little over blown considering the calamity factor. Most people in this film were too busy documenting it with their cameras to be on the phone anyway.

    The only place this film is even remotely questionable, is the fact that every cast member, bar none, was somehow free of a New York accent and that they were fairly archetypal complete with “every man” comic relief in the form of Rob’s best friend “Hud”.

    If a frantic emotional state of distress were kept up by all and Hud had kept his mouth shut and there were authentic NYC accents, I’d give this film a 10. Because of all of that other stuff however it’s a solid 8.5.

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    September 22, 2010 @ 9:22 pm Harry Bertoia

    Cloverfield was a few years ago but I just found your site. I actually thought the movie was pretty cool, but it left too many unanswered questions, like what the heck was that thing and where did it come from? My wife hated the movie.

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