Saturday, June 28, 2014

Overlooked Film of the Week- "Cloverfield" (2008)

Overlooked Film of the Week- #62

Cloverfield

I apologize for skipping out on writing an “Overlooked Film of the Week” last week. I was a groomsman last weekend in a wedding for one of my best friends. It was a weekend that took up nearly all my free time, but I don’t regret anything about it. I loved being a part of my best friends special day, and it went off without a hitch. I tried to get as much writing as I could on Sunday, but that was tough after a near four-and-a-half hour drive home. I took at least two naps that Sunday and I wanted a lazy weekend this weekend, which is exactly what I got. Now I will write an “Overlooked Film of the Week” tonight and of course, I plan to catch up tomorrow. No harm, no foul.

Each movie has its fair share of detractors and supporters, and it seems that no matter how popular a movie is, there are people who will spew bile on it. It does not matter how great the rest of the world sees it, there will never be a piece of art that unites every single person in like harmony. Sometimes though, I am somewhat surprised by what vanishes under a rug and what doesn’t. I definitely thought “Cloverfield” in 2008 would become another big hit for Paramount. I figured we’d see at least two sequels to the film by now, and it seems that work on a sequel has halted, with no sign of restarting anytime soon. There is a forum I used to visit, and I remember people discussing the prospect of a sequel and some of the ideas people made up and bounced around seemed like interesting paths for a sequel, but we just never got one. I can say with a full heart that I enjoyed “Cloverfield.” I found it fun, confident, and action-packed. Honestly, what else could one ask for from a found-footage monster movie? Also, with the slick marketing game J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves played prior to release, it’s hard to see how people didn’t lose their minds for this film.

That is actually part of the reason why I find “Cloverfield” important. “Cloverfield” is almost single-handedly responsible for changing what could be done with the found footage device. There are some moments of tension in “Cloverfield” and some genuinely weird, creepy moments, I would categorize “Cloverfield” as a horror film. “Cloverfield” is a monster movie, through and through. It features everything we have come to love from the sub-genre, only it features a much different twist on the sub-genre. Honestly, I dug that twist a lot; we are living in the Digital Age, the Youtube Age. It seems that nearly everything we do is captured on a camera device for millions of masses to view. I certainly don’t believe in giant monsters, but if one were to start tarring up New York City, you can bet that someone would record it.

That is essentially the premise of “Cloverfield,” we begin the movie at a going-away party for Robert Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David), who is going to work, in Japan. Robert’s brother Jason (Mike Vogel) and Jason’s girlfriend Lily (Jessica Lucas), plan to capture the whole party on tape and plan to record “confessionals” for Robert to see and remember once he has settled in Japan. Then, all Hell breaks loose as something emerges from the Atlantic Ocean and begins wreaking havoc on the city. There is one loose end Robert never tied up before getting ready to leave, and that is his ex-girlfriend-of-sorts Beth (Odette Annable), who is trapped somewhere in the city, and Robert feels inclined to venture through the danger to find her and bring her to some kind of safety.

It is this group of people we follow in this movie that will either make or break the movie for you. I have read countless film-lovers rail against the “annoying 20-somethings” who populate this movie. For me personally, I thought the humans worked in this movie. I think the acting is solid across the board, and the actors create humans that get stuck in something they can’t describe. I think Michael Stahl-David and Odette Annanble create two rich leads in this movie and I think I like Stahl-David because I found him to be easily relatable and his story with Annable felt real. They are romantically linked, but something happened that fractured that romance. Now that Robert wants to reconnect, it may be too late, and then they get caught in an extraordinary situation. It all felt very natural and it connects with me because I personally was in a situation similar to this one.

I also felt I could identify with Hudson (T.J. Miller) who is Robert’s best friend and blindly commits to helping him find Beth. Hudson in the early moments of the film is the one behind the camera, and there is a girl who is striking his attention. That girl is named Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) and she is among the first people Hudson talks to for a confessional. When the monster begins attacking the city, it’s Hudson who feels the need to watch over Marlena and they also create a believable bond. I connected with Hudson quickly, due to the simple fact that I saw a lot of myself growing up in him. I remember when I first had crushes on girls and I remember the silly things I used to do and say to get them to notice me. These are things that when I reflect upon now, I am puzzled by my thoughts, wondering why I did those things in the first place. Out of the whole cast, it has been Miller and Caplan who grew the most famous and they do some of the film’s best acting.

Now let’s talk a little about Clovie, the nickname given to the monster that attacks the city. Clovie is unlike any monster we have ever seen in movies like this. He looks like a mixture between a dinosaur, a snake, and some kind of weird alien. His origin is for the most part kept a mystery, which I totally dug from the movie. I also liked how the miniature Clovies that fall off of Clovie’s body throughout the film are never explained, nor how they can force a human to explode once they have bitten one. I am sure we would have found out more about Clovie’s origin if we ever got a sequel, but maybe Paramount will make one in the future. For right now, I enjoyed the design of the creature and found him menacing for lots of the film.

I think the special effects are used flawlessly in “Cloverfield.” To this day, I am very much impressed by how director Matt Reeves made a digital monster and tricked the audience into making it look and feel real. I also have to give special mention to the score by Michael Giacchino, Giacchino composes a score that more that suits a monster movie. The song is intense, thrilling, and somewhat bizarre. It is a song that feels epic. Sometimes when I watch this film on DVD at home, I will let the credits play just to hear the score. The use of music is quite precise in this film and I loved it.

“Cloverfield” was a movie that has vanished without a trace it seems, but it is something worth checking out if you like this genre.

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