Cloverfield (2008)

Genre(s): Action / Drama / Mystery / Science Fiction
Paramount || PG13 - 85 minutes - $29.99 || April 22, 2008
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2008-04-08


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Matt Reeves
Writer(s): Drew Goddard (written by)
Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Yustman


Theatrical Release Date: January 18, 2008


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Director's Commentary
  • Document 01.18.08: The Making of Cloverfield
  • Cloverfield Visual Effects
  • I Saw It! It's Alive! It's Huge!
  • Clover Fun
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Alternate Endings


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

With the success of “Lost” and “Alias”, J.J. Abrams brought to the screen, as producer, one of the most highly hyped movies on the Net... ever, second only to Snakes on a Plane. Cloverfield reeled people in with an iconic shot reminiscent of Independence Day where the head of Lady Liberty comes crashing through the street. I personally don’t like buying into Internet hype (never did with Snakes) and I decided to pass on this one. Boy, was I wrong.

Cloverfield more or less takes place in real time and is filmed entirely using the shaky-cam technique made popular in the last two “Jason Bourne” movies, so if you hated Paul Greengrass’s style, you’re going to loathe this one. A group of friends hold a going away party for Rob (Stahl-David) as he is set to move to Japan. In his circle of friends are brother Jason (Vogel), Jason’s girl Lily (Lucas), acquaintance Marlena (Caplan) and best friend Hud (Miller), who is the man documenting the night’s events on Rob’s camcorder. During the party, the building shakes and they think they’ve just experienced an earthquake (in NYC mind you) only to realize that the city is under attack... by some kind of monster! Soon enough they are running for their lives to escape New York City before the monster gets to them.

This is the first film that actually lived up the hype in my book. As I said, I usually don’t believe Internet/fanboy hype but this actually was one hell of a ride, albeit a short one as the movie, minus end credits, clocks in at around 73-minutes. However, it might because of the fleeting pacing and chaos that made Cloverfield such a great experience. There’s very little character development — no time for it really — yet writer Drew Goddard (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Lost”) manages to creep in bits and pieces here and there to flesh a couple of them out just enough to make us care about their fates.

Outside of the movie, the choice of director was probably the most interesting part. Matt Reeves previously worked with J.J. Abrams on “Felicity” as a writer and director but his previous theatrical release was 1996’s The Pallbearer, a film I think very few have seen. And although that movie was quite funny, it didn’t exactly foreshadow a future in the Sci-Fi Monster Action Disaster genre. His use of the shaky-cam style can be confusing as we try to follow where each character is, but at the same time, it also brings the audience into the character’s state of mind as we watch everything unfold as they do.

Although the cast is made up of unknowns with most coming from TV, Lizzy Chapman for instance was most recently on the now cancelled series, “The Class”. On the same token, you also don’t have the inevitable distraction of some A or B-list movie star and instead can focus on each character and their plight. As for their performances, they are all good with only the beginning (pre-attack) being at times spotty.

If I had one complaint, it comes in the form of the monsters. Are they scary? Sure. Do they have a background? No. Do they need an origin? No. But the actual design of them aren’t very original, in fact these spider creatures that crawl in dark places and pounce on people looked very familiar while watching the movie, it was only afterwards when I remembered what other movie also used them: The Mist. Same idea where the spider jumps on someone bites them and the person eventually dies. That said, the visual effects are incredible and given the amount of work that must’ve gone into placing everything into the camera style, it’s amazing.

In the end, Cloverfield is what Godzilla and War of the Worlds should have been. I’d even say this is the 21st century version of Earthquake or The Towering Inferno, disaster movies taken up a notch in white-knuckle suspense.

One recommendation: for full effect, see it at night, it will only add to the atmosphere!



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

Director’s Commentary – Matt Reeves sits down for an informative track. He fills up just about the entire movie with little bits of trivia from how the projects started to casting to the use of improve during the party scene. I would’ve liked it better if a couple cast members or J.J. Abrams himself had joined in, though.

Document 01.18.08: The Making of Cloverfield (28:16) – This is a decent ‘making-of’ that takes the viewer behind the scenes as the production moves from downtown L.A. to a large warehouse and finally to NYC. While I would’ve liked to have seen more, it’s a good way to see how some of the shots were done.

Cloverfield Visual Effects (22:29) – Every one of the 10 major visual effects scene/sequences are covered in this featurette. It takes you through what was shot on location then to animation and compositing other shots together.

I Saw It! It’s Alive! It’s Huge (5:49) (that’s what she said) – Short featurette on how the creatures were designed, but doesn’t go much further.

Clover Fun (3:57) – Gag reel showing the cast having some fun, especially during the party scene.

Deleted Scenes (3:33) – Four short scenes are included, none of which shed any more light on the movie nor should have been kept in either. I have to wonder if more is out there waiting for the inevitable 2-disc special edition (and/or Blu-Ray release).

Alternate Endings (4:33) – Don’t get too excited. 95% of this was in the final film with, in the first alt. ending, the last scene being changed and the second scene just has an insert. It’s an interesting insert, reminds me of “Lost” a little, but it doesn’t really change the movie that much.

The DVD also contains previews for Star Trek and the upcoming Indiana Jones blockbuster.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

Since the film looks like it was shot on a camcorder, it’s tough to tell how good the transfer really is. Many scenes are out of focus but since this is the original intent of the filmmakers, got to say that it looks good. The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen with a 1.85 OAR.

The audio is also good with a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Monster sounds will fill your room while the attack scenes should shake the floor. It is a solid track.



.::OVERALL::.

Cloverfield has to be one of the most intense movies I have seen in a long, long time. Even with a monster that isn’t quite that fascinating, this is a movie that lives up to the hype for once. J.J. Abrams is poising himself to be the Judd Apatow of the mysterious crazy action shit genre.