Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Movie Review: Cloverfield

I recommend it, mostly.

I just came in from seeing “Cloverfield” at the local quadplex. My other choice was “American Gangster,” which I plan to see later this week.

I opted for Cloverfield based solely on the cool poster. It shows a wrecked Statue of Liberty with her head missing.

‘Oh cool! Another disaster movie about the city I love to hate!

My disdain for NYC is not as bad as all that. I’m just sort of ambivalent about the place. Everyone I know from there has the same hard-to-take arrogant boastful manner and it’s just difficult for me to have much sympathy for a place that can spawn such people. Do I take some small, or not so small, satisfaction in watching them get their theatrical comeuppance? Maybe a little, but its pretty much on the same level as how a baseball fan feels while watching the hated Yankees get their overpaid butts waxed. I know the New York Giants just accomplished the unlikely and won the Superbowl, but I don’t hate them like I do the Yanks, so I’m pretty much apathetic concerning their success. Anyway, I digress, about this movie…

I had never even heard of it until I saw it on the marquee poster tonight. Before I got there I didn’t have an inkling as to the story or the genre. Getting to the last first; am I glad that I opted to see it instead of American Gangster? The answer is a “hesitant” yes. I enjoyed it and just as I recommended for “I am Legend,” this movie should also be seen on the big screen.

As fair warning though, you might find yourself getting queasy watching it. In the spirit of The Blare Witch Project, Cloverfield is supposedly filmed by the people IN the movie. It jumps around, pans too fast and is out of focus and blurry—a lot.

Read no further if you plan on seeing this movie.

The writers were clever in the way they put this thing together. They say there is no plot that hasn’t already been written and done on screen, but they come pretty close to achieving at least some level of originality in Cloverfield.

The real hero of the movie is the video camera itself. It starts out with its owner, Robert Hawkins, taking shots of Central Park from his girlfriend’s apartment high over the city. From there we see them on a trip to Coney Island. Then, it gets confusing.

We watch preparations of a going-away surprise party for the camera’s owner who evidently is soon leaving for a job in Japan. I don’t think we ever really know what that job is, and soon we realize it’s not important. We watch and hear the camera being given by Robert’s brother to one of their buddies, a goofy average Joe named Hud. He is told that his job is to film congratulatory testimonials throughout the party for Robert's later enjoyment. At first, Hud's unsure he likes the idea, but soon, he really gets into the task, especially when he understands that he will be able to use the filming "angle" to talk to a girl he really likes. I think her name is Marlena.

In fact, Hud gets so into the idea that by midnight, as the party really gets going, he seems to have developed this unlikely sense of responsibility to get on film all that happens. This over-developed sense of responsibility to document all that happens continues on even as the stuff hits the proverbial fan.

And boy, do things happen! There’s a huge jolting explosion in their high-rise building and THAT’S when this movie really begins. They are under attack by “some thing,” and it’s a doozey!

To make a not-so-long story even shorter (the movie is only about 70 minutes long), four of the partygoers end up together on a quest to find Robert’s estranged Coney Island girlfriend, Beth. This is after they try to make it across the Brooklyn Bridge on foot, only to have it dramatically collapsed by “the monster” and fall into East River. That’s when we see Robert’s brother killed on the tape. He’s crushed into unseen oblivion by a piece of the falling bridge.

Hud films it all. The four of them go against the human tide toward Beth’s apartment, which is also towards the monster. In the harrowing trek they are attacked down in the darkness of a subway tunnel by baby monsters about the size of large mastiffs. Marlena gets chewed up pretty good while the others are spared. They end up at an army aid station where Marlena’s condition takes a horrible turn for the worse—she starts bleeding from the eyes, and then, while being hustled away by army medics; she explodes in a bloody mess. Again, Hud catches his love interest’s demise on cam.

Three of them, Hud, Robert, and some girl, of whom I lost track of whom she is exactly, since she wasn’t all that important anyway; these three all manage to make their way to Beth’s high-rise. The monster has pushed it over into the adjacent building. Hud has the crazy idea to get to Beth’s building by crossing to it from the unscathed one. They make the long climb up the stairs, cross over, and find Beth skewered to the floor by a piece of rebar. We see a foot of it poking up through her shoulder.

Hud puts the cam on the floor and we see only her supine legs as they lift her from the metal bar on the count of three. Unaccountably, she is then able to move on her own two legs with only a little help. ‘Nice recovery!’ I think.

They make it to an evacuation site where for some unknown reason only the uninjured girl takes off in the next helo. (I TOLD you she wasn't important!) ‘Why didn’t they evacuate Beth,’ it occurred to me, ‘She’s the one who’s hurt!’

Much of the coolest action involves the US Army troopers bravely fighting a losing running battle against these impervious creatures. Our valiant “boys in green” mostly get killed while firing everything in the armory. ‘Where did all these troopers come from in such a hurry? It should mostly be police doing the first of the fighting, since it can take most of a day or two to round up that many infantrymen; even in this post 9-11 world.’ Still, I was proud to see that the filmmakers showed our armed forces in the best light, doing their job with fierce bravado even in the face of certain death.

In fact, the final three lead protagonists—Robert, Hud, and Beth—watch from high in their evacuation helicopter as a B2 bat-winged stealth bomber drops a huge bomb, probably a fuel air explosive, on the beast. The monster falters, struggles and at last disappears into the smoke and dust. They scream exultantly.

But not so fast! The thing suddenly rushes at them from within the enveloping black smoke and smashes them hard. The helicopter has been mortally damaged and from within it we see it spin out of control down into Central Park. Big crash! Then we see a section of the helo’s passenger compartment from where the camera has fallen next to Hud. Slowly, they stir. Robert and Beth pull the stricken Hud from the wreckage.

Again they have cheated death, but have they? From no where the gigantic monster, looking like a hideous cross between a bat and a praying mantis, appears out of the morning mist and stops directly above them.

Hud is unable to move, only able to point the camera at the monster high overhead. At first, we think perhaps it doesn’t notice them. Then, it sees Hud (us!). The humongous ugly head comes closer and closer, pauses, and then darts directly at the camera and Hud, in other words, at us! We see rows of jagged teeth, big as buses, and as they snap together in a final lunge, we hear Hud’s final screams. The camera drops to the ground next to his face and we know from his unblinking eyes that he is dead.

Robert retrieves his camera and he and Beth sprint for momentary cover under one of the many Central Park tunnels. Robert speaks into the camera knowing his life is probably about to end; he leaves a final message. Then, another smashing sound as the monster crushes the tunnel onto them. We watch as bricks and stone fall onto our final two characters. They disappear from view as the camera falls. We see no more as rock and debris covers the lens. We know they are dead. The movie ends.

Not exactly a message of hope, but what else would you expect from a film poster showing a decapitated Lady Liberty?


Anonymous said...

How's my most favorite guy in the PI?

PhilippinesPhil said...

Doing good here thanks. Just fixing up my bahay and watching movies. Think I'll go see American Gangster tonight.