Friday, May 2, 2008

Movie Review: Cloverfield (2007)

***Cross-posted on Good News Film Reviews***

Should I see it?


Short Review:
MTV makes a monster movie.

The whole movie is held hostage by its own novelty. The hook for the flick is that a giant monster attacks New York City and the whole thing is caught on tape by civilians on the ground. This may seem like a great premise for a film until you learn that this means you'll spend ninety minutes with a gaggle of vacuous snot nosed twentysomethings who can't hold a camera still. If you're even remotely prone to seasickness or enjoy films that involve character arcs and plot, you want to steer clear of this pointless mess.

The story is cobbled together to keep the novelty alive. Since the characters need to keep filming for there to be a movie, screenwriter Drew Goddard is forced to have them make foolish choices or be the victim of ridiculous coincidences. Honestly, the monster seems drawn to recognizable land marks and only seems compelled to destroy them once the heroes get within range to shoot the carnage. Goddard's plot is frustrated by having to keep his story alive under the conditions of the gimmick. Since the characters would logically try to avoid the lumbering giant monster Goddard has to invent a way for them to remain in peril even when hiding. His answer? The giant monster sheds evil spiders that impregnate people and makes them explode. This stupid concept may have been cool on paper but in reality all we get is the characters being assaulted twice in quick scenes that are all filmed with a shaking camera. There's no reason given for any of these monsters, but then again, there's no real reason to provide one. This isn't supposed to be Shakespeare. Too bad its not even good enough to claim to be Stephen King.
You can forget this mindless drivel and go rent Godzilla - at least he didn't poop spiders.

Cautions: There's some gore, although it is brief. Swearing abounds and there's a ton of death. This isn't for small children obviously...then again, with how stupid this is, it's not for adults either.

There has been some fleeting comments pointing out the tenuous connections between this movie and 9-11. Fair enough, let's look at it. The opening of the film, when the monster strikes it breaks up an oil rig, and then comes to New York and beheads the Statue of Liberty. Following this, it knocks down some prominent skyscrapers choking the streets with huge billows of dust and smoke. The citizens huddle in small shops as the devastation passes by. One can easily look at all of this and see linkages to the images of 9-11.

Even though they appear to be mindless and without meaning, horror movies are loaded with symbolism and messages, usually these are intentional. One of the staples is what i call "the death of God" at the beginning of a movie. When a monster first attacks it is normal for it to kill a priest, destroy a church, or defile another religious symbol. What is the first thing blown up in Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds? A Church. Where does Jim, from 28 Days Later, discover the zombies? A Church - and the first person he sees in zombie form? A priest. Even Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit has the first victim of the beast be the town Reverend. The next time you watch a horror movie watch for this image. What is happening here is the evil is transplanting itself in place of God. Without God there is no hope. In this film, this usual religious movement is altered and it is the Statue of Liberty - the world's biggest symbol of freedom - that is toppled. This is how I can make a connection between this film and terrorism. Now that I explain all of this, I should add that
the film, being a senseless pile of crud, doesn't do anything with this symbolism. Following these striking images, the movie falls into a tedious first-person yarn that can seem to decide how its going to resolve itself.

Before I go, I just want to add that it is just bad film making to have a disaster film set in New York City and have crowds of people running and there's no children in any of the shots. Heck, there's barely any minorities or old people. According to this movie Manhattan is populated by handsome whites between the ages of 18-26 and their hot black girlfriends. Cheap film making.

No comments: