Monday, February 1, 2010

Catching Up: Cloverfield

Every year, dozens of movies are released impacting geek culture.  Here in The Middle Room, we endeavor to view these in a timely fashion.  Unfortunately, from time to time, we are lax in our duties and movies of profound significance escape the theaters unseen.  It is fortunate, then, that the technology exists to view these after the fact. 
We refer, of course, to the digital video disc.  Do not trivialize such a wonder with its abbreviation.  Do not dare.
It was in such a manner that, at long last, we tracked down Cloverfield, one of the more famous American monster movies of the past decade.

And, despite the length of this introduction, despite all our pretense, we are sorry to report that we found the movie wanting.

While it certainly wasn't awful, neither was it particularly good.  The premise, of course, was brilliant - showcasing the horror of a monster movie from the point-of-view of a hand-held camera carried by one of the characters - but the execution failed to deliver.
The monster was well designed and digitally constructed, but played a minor role in the picture.  This was intentional, of course.  The movie was constructed using the monster as a backdrop - ultimately a form of setting - so as to focus on the characters.  While the camera elicits comparisons to The Blair Witch Project, the movie as a whole reminds us more of Spielberg's War of the Worlds and Shyamalan's Signs.  All three are first and foremost movies about characters, and all focus on cultivating an atmosphere of suspense.  These are, ultimately, survival movies more than science fiction.

But, when building a movie around its characters, it is essential to construct interesting and believable characters.  Cloverfield did neither: if the monster wants to show up and make a meal out of the movie's leads, it's hard to care.  In some ways, the monster felt more developed in its forty-five seconds of total screen time than the humans did throughout the entire movie.
Cloverfield built suspense competently, but it never bested either Signs or War of the Worlds in this respect.  While this was worth a viewing, it's hard to imagine bothering a second time.

No comments: