The found footage from a group of friends' videocamera depicts the events that took place when New York City was attacked by a gigantic monster.
1.5 / 5 Shaky Cameras
2.5 / 5 Post-attack wounds
Should you watch it?
While it does has an interesting premise, I don’t think I’d go as far as saying that it’s particularly worth your time. Especially because the whole movie kiiinda feels a bit like a sub-par handycam ripoff of the 2006 South Korean movie 괴물 (aka The Host). Now, I’m not saying it is a ripoff, but I am saying that The Host does what this movie was trying to do and does it far better.
And that’s Cloverfield’s problem in a nutshell. I really shouldn’t be able to make that comparison. The Host is a movie about a family trying to rescue their daughter after she is taken by a mutated creature. It deals with government incompetence endangering the populace and about the importance of family. Meanwhile Cloverfield is about a Godzilla-sized monster attacking New York City. Giant monster movies are more-or-less the horror/sci-fi corollaries of natural disasters; they offer the same destruction, but focused on an actual entity instead of an ethereal natural phenomenon.
And yet they are comparable, because Cloverfield doesn’t want to tell the story of the disaster, it wants to tell a story about people surviving monster attacks. And to make that work they have to go way out of their way and actively work against their own set-up and film style. If they wanted to just do monster attacks scrapping the handycam angle style would have created a much better shots and atmosphere. But the found-footage thing would have been really interesting for a disaster movie!
I mean, have you seen pictures from areas affected by natural disasters or terror attacks? They’re chilling. You can’t help but to wonder how it would feel to go through something like that. I was thinking that Cloverfield would try to tap into that those kinds of frightening questions. Crowds of panicking people, clouds of dust are making it hard to see/breathe, buildings that are structurally compromised, utilities destroyed: the city itself turning against you. And it’s all coming from something you have no power to stop.
The film briefly touches on some of that horror, but it never stays for very long before shifting the focus back onto monsters. They even introduce smaller monsters in addition to the giant one just so they can make that focus work.
Although to be fair, even if they had focused on the disaster I still would have issues with it for having really dull characters. The only character I really liked was Lizzy Caplan’s and she leaves the main group like halfway in. Meanwhile you’ve got to deal with T.J. Miller’s character for the whole movie! Where is the fairness in that?
“Ocean is big, dude. All I’m saying is a couple of years ago, they found a fish in Madagascar that they thought been extinct for centuries.”
“So what? It’s been down there this whole time, and nobody noticed?”
“Sure. Maybe it erupted from an ocean trench, you know? Or a crevasse. Crevice. It’s just a theory. I mean, for all we know, it’s from another planet and it flew here.”
“Yeah, exactly like... Wait. You know who Superman is?”
“Oh my God. You know who Superman is?”
“Okay, I’m not...”
“I’m, like, feeling something...are you aware of Garfield?”