It’s time to look at a film I haven’t checked out in a very long time. Cloverfield was definitely not a monster film I enjoyed very much the first time. I thought the party scene took forever to get through and shaky cam has never been my style. It’s definitely a little better the second time around so I’d bump my score up a bit from the first time. Ultimately this film still could have been way better if we had a standard camera and got to see it more from the government’s point of view or one main character. Think Rampage or Godzilla 1998. That said, Clover still has a pretty intimidating design and seeing the Statue of Liberty get taken down is still an iconic scene.
The film starts off with the main characters at a party for Rob. He’s finally got the Vice President job he’s always wanted. So all of his old friends are there including his brother Jason and best friend Hud. Jason is supposed to record everyone giving Rob a quick message but doesn’t want to do it himself so he gets Hud to do it. Hud’s apparently not the most serious person around since Lily has to stress to him that this is serious a few times. Still, Hud gets a few messages on board before the first Earthquake happens. The main characters head outside and get a glimpse of the monster. They all start to head out of the area but then we find out that Beth has been injured and is unable to head out of her apartment. The heroes must head back into the danger zone to rescue her. Will they be able to do this?
So the film’s main gimmick is the classic shaky cam. So Hud’s carrying the camera around the whole film which is how the viewers see what’s happening. Naturally the guy stumbles a lot and while he’s running around the camera also tends to move so it’s not the clearest picture. That makes sense of course in context but as a directing decision I can’t say that it’s a good one. It’s a lot better to have a focused view so you can really get what is happening. Part of the fun in these monster films is seeing the monster break all of the buildings. You can’t help but feel like you are missing most of the action since we’re following these characters. It’s similar to how we missed the first big Godzilla fight in the 2014 film because the guy decided to take the train and we got a big time jump. The gimmick definitely does hold the film back to an extent.
The other main thing holding the film back is the writing which is pretty bad. The characters are all introduced as being very unlikable right from the jump. First you’ve got Hud who gleefully tells everyone who will listen that Rob had an affair with Beth. It’s really none of his business and it’s easy to see why Lily didn’t want him to know initially. He basically proves her right that he’s a pretty bad person. Jason also should have known that telling Bud wasn’t a good idea and it’s not something they needed to know. Jason’s also the one who dumped the responsibility on Hud so that wasn’t good. Marlena is all right, although she’s mostly just along for the ride compared to the others. I’m actually surprised she even went with the group since among them she had the least amount of reason to do so.
Rob and Lily are definitely the best characters here. Lily was at least keeping a level head during this and was one of the first to jump in and fight the mini monsters. She was quick and decisive which is important in a crisis. Rob was also pretty loyal to try and go save Beth amidst all of this. He didn’t handle the party particularly well but at least this was a really good scene for him. If the script were a little better then I think the characters would have benefited from this quite a lot. Instead a ton of language is thrown in throughout which seems to be cliche for disaster films as everyone keeps on panicking throughout.
For the positives, Clover’s design is solid as I mentioned. The destruction effects have also aged pretty well. It’s all very realistic looking and a nice view of how things could be if a giant monster were to attack the city. Certainly it would be pretty devastating and crazy outside. Even if you escaped the borough there’s no way of knowing if you’d really be safe or not. For all we know this is just the first creature of many and you don’t know if the government created it or if it’s an alien. The film doesn’t really answer any of these questions and that’s probably for the best. The mystery and suspense is part of the fun and knowing the answers to these questions would take away from all of that. It was also nice to see the government’s missile strike to try and take him down. It did look like it did some nice damage even if Clover didn’t ultimately go down.
The atmosphere is also pretty good. The film’s pretty bleak and has that end of the world vibe without trying to get too depressing. Hud can over dramatize things at times but that seems to be his core character anyway. The smoke cloud after Clover’s initial attack reminded me of the visuals from Batman V Superman as well. You’ll definitely be interested in seeing what happens next. The ending should have had more if you ask me. There is a brief extra moment if you stick through the credits but I need more intel. They said that the area was formerly known as Central Park so are they saying formally because it no longer exists or because this recording is from way in the future? As I mentioned we do want to keep the mystery so don’t explain it much but give more of a stinger. I want to see a bunch of monsters running around or something like that. Of course, it may have made the wait for the sequel even tougher but it’d be worth it.
Overall, Cloverfield is a pretty engaging film. It does have its weak points which keep it from ranking higher though. The first person camera look just doesn’t work for movies and the writing needed to be better. The film doesn’t drag on though which is good as it’s a pretty quick film that always stays on point. The mini clovers were a little on the weak side since the heroes were able to down them but at least it helped to give them a chance while keeping in the danger factor so that worked pretty well. It’ll be cool if we actually get a sequel to this someday. The various spin-offs don’t really count to me since we haven’t actually seen what happens at the end of the events of this film. Despite the title being thrown around everywhere I feel like the other films don’t have anything to really do with this one beyond some small connections to technically put them in the same universe. If you like a good monster destruction film then this one is worth checking out. It is a unique perspective to see this from the ground level civilians as opposed to a professional.