[Moving picture of popcorn]

Laramie Movie Scope: Cloverfield

A stripped down giant monster movie

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

January 19, 2008 -- The movie “Cloverfield” was cooked up by some studio executives over at Paramount who got the bright idea to shoot a Godzilla-type monster movie using a relatively cheap video camera, a no-name cast and about $15 million worth of post-production digital effects. The result is a kind of high budget YouTube movie, or a sort of “Blair Witch Project Meets Godzilla” movie. It works. As insipid as the characters are, you do tend to get caught up in their plight. I did get the urge to reach out and steady the camera, or to zoom out to get a wider field of view. The camera work definitely limits what you can see. That is also what holds down the film's cost and should make it quite profitable.

The movie starts out with some graphics that indicate the video camera was found in New York's Central Park after a disaster of some kind. When we start watching the video, supposedly from this camera, we see a going away party for a young man, Rob (Michael Stahl-David) who is moving to Japan. His friend Hud (T.J. Miller) is talked into videotaping the event. Hud tries to record partygoers' farewell messages for Rob. Along the way, we find out that Rob has broken up with his girlfriend, Beth McIntyre (Odette Yustman) and that Hud is inadvertently erasing a recording of Beth and Rob's last date. Bits of this last date are seen at the beginning of the film and from time to time when Hud stops the camera and starts it again, leaving parts of the earlier episode intact. The party seems to go on endlessly and just when the audience thinks they are trapped in this boring affair, the building starts to rumble, as if hit by an earthquake.

The video includes some televised newscasts, which give a little more exposition to the film. By the time the head of the Statue of Liberty comes crashing down the street like a bowling ball, we've got a pretty good idea that this is a Godzilla-like attack on New York. Scenes of dust clouds rushing down the streets are reminiscent of the collapse of the World Trade Center. It shows poor taste that the filmmakers chose to exploit those particular images from that awful day. The giant creature looks like something from another planet. It certainly doesn't fit any kind of known animal taxonomy on this planet. The creature also seems to defy a number of laws of physics regarding density, size, structural integrity, energy consumption, etc. In addition to the big creature, which crawls around horizontally, rather than standing up like Godzilla or King Kong, there are perhaps thousands of smaller, spider-like creatures which rain off of the big creature. These smaller creatures, about the size of a large dog, can also kill people.

After receiving a phone call from Beth, that she is at her apartment, has fallen and can't get up, Rob decides to try to rescue her. Hud, Rob, his brother Jason (Mike Vogel), Jason's girlfriend, Lily Ford (Jessica Lucas) and Marlena Diamond (Lizzy Caplan) all head off to save Beth. The journey is dangerous in the extreme with big and little monsters crawling all over the place, the military dropping bombs, shooting shells and bullets everywhere. This daring band of rescuers starts getting whittled down. Once the action starts, it is compelling enough. The use of a single video camera, with its narrow field makes for claustrophobic, but effective, point-of-view storytelling. Unfortunately, the characters are thin and forgettable. Only Lizzy Caplan stands out in this lot because her looks are unconventional. The camera is also very unsteady. If the “Blair Witch Project” shaky cam made you sick, take dramamine for this one. The film's short running length, 90 minutes, is a blessing. This kind of conceit can't be sustained very long. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2008 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)