Sunday, January 20, 2008


Almost since the dawn of cinema, there has been a celluloid monster to terrorize both the denizens of the screen and the audiences in the dark. King Kong was the most notable of the early beasts, and we've had many more since then. After the gigantic gorilla, Godzilla and Gamera are the most notable. Godzilla has been the subject of numerous movies, both good and bad. With all these monsters, we've been able to view them from an all-seeing perspective. We've seen them in quiet moments, when they are taking a break from terrorizing the masses.

Not so with the finely-executed Cloverfield. We view the events from the camera of a man who had planned on taping his friend's going-away party, but ended up with footage much more compelling. The party is interrupted by what at first appears to be an earthquake or possibly a terrorist attack, but which turns out to be gigantic beast. There is much speculation but no explanation given as to where the beast came from or what it ultimately seeks to achieve. All we see is the mayhem is has produced.

Will Smith sought in I Am Legend to redeem humanity from its infected state. The creature of Cloverfield knows only mayhem and destruction. The Army runs through the city trying to stop, but to no avail. In its world, we're all legends.

There are a few tense moments, but it's not as scary a film as traditional monster movies have been. Beyond the existence of a gigantic monster, there are several implausibilities, including a cell phone that's able to work no matter where the main characters go. But the film works. The audience member is able to completely buy into the world this film shows, a ruined Manhattan where people are desperate to save the ones they hold dear. In the YouTube age, Cloverfield fits right in.

More about Cloverfield from Rogert Ebert and Peter Chattaway.

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