Review: “Cloverfield”

So I finally saw Cloverfield, which I had been wanting to see ever since I caught the trailer when we watched Transformers last summer.  (NOTE: Transformers did not put my wife to sleep.)

Now that I’ve seen Cloverfield all I can say is, God am I glad I didn’t see that on a big screen.  Even on our relatively small television (36″ — it seemed big when we bought it eight years ago …), the shaky-cam style made me a little uncomfortable.  In a real theater with a screen the size of a barn wall, I would’ve been yakking all over the person in front of me.  (I’m extremely susceptible to motion sickness.)

Anyway, aside from the shaky-cam issues that made me watch a good part of the film sidelong, I liked Cloverfield a lot.  I’m a sucker for giant-monster movies and this one was about 100 times better than the sad-sack remake of Godzilla from several years back.  Watching Godzilla I just felt sorry for the monster; this one scared the crap out of me, and the weird little critters that fell off of it were pretty nasty pieces of work, too.  (Have I mentioned that I periodically dream about one or more giant monsters rampaging through the city where I live?  Is that weird?  Doesn’t everybody have that dream … ?)

Interestingly enough, in the special features for Cloverfield, we learn that the monster is just a frightened baby and when it roars it’s calling for its mother.  So we were supposed to feel sorry for the monster this time.  Ummmm, okay, if you say so.  I thought it was just some badass trashing New York City for reasons unknown …

As per usual with a “rescue” movie, we have our little band of heroes who are risking their own lives to save a friend.  (The lesson of Cloverfield might be “After you sleep with the girl, call her and tell her you love her; it’ll make things a lot easier on you when a giant monster starts chewing up Manhattan.”)  I’d heard bad things about the performances, but I thought they were quite good.  In particular, T.J. Miller as Hud, the “guy behind the camera”, managed to make his character sympathetic with next to no screen time, just voice work.  Lizzy Caplan was terrific as Marlena, making me completely forget about her character from Mean Girls.  The other actors were fine and believable as well, but they were saddled with less interesting characters than these two.  In particular, I found the Robert Hawkins character, the putative hero, to be kinda one-note and boring.  Useless and uninteresting trivia:  In the late 80s I played a play-by-mail (PBM) game of space exploration called “Beyond the Quadra Zone”.  (This was before we had online gaming.  Hard to believe, eh?)  Anyway, the name of my character was Robert Hawkins.  Mr. Abrams, I’ll be expecting my royalty check in the mail.

The shaky-cam invites comparisons to The Blair Witch Project, but it’s really the only similarity between the two.  (I hated The Blair Witch Project.  Blech!)

My wife more or less completely ignored Cloverfield the whole time it was on (all 84 minutes of it!), so I can’t really give it my usual rating of how long it took to put her to sleep.  But she must’ve spent at least a little time paying attention to it, because she said she also thought the performances were good.  Draw your own conclusions …

WARNING:  Comments on this review may contain spoilers.