Raise your hands, when is the last time that you saw the original “Godzilla”? I’m not talking about the dubbed Americanized version with the cut-in Raymond Burr scenes, I mean the original “Gojira”. The original was unlike any other in the series. It was truly terrifying. The devastation unleashed by Godzilla upon Tokyo gave no quarter. For those that only know Godzilla from later films where he battles other monsters, the original stands apart as dynamic and horrific filmmaking by director Ishiro Honda. Matt Reeves, the director of Cloverfield, set out to make an American version of Godzilla (aside from the God awful 1998) film and he has largely succeeded.
Like Honda, Reeves focuses his film more on how the creature affects the people and city rather than on the creature himself. Reeve’s decision to film it in docu-drama format produced a film that was starkly realistic.
A large group of friends has gathered in a New York City loft to say goodbye to their friend Rob (Michael Stahl-David), who has accepted a Vice-Presidency position with a company in Japan (ha! Ironic, eh!). Rob’s best buddy Hud (T.J. Miller) is recruited to document the party on video as the friends all wish Rob well in his new position. The evening is interrupted by an apparent earthquake as the party-goers rush to the roof to see what has happened. A series of explosions in the distance soon has them scrambling in a wild panic to the streets below…just as the head of the Statue of Liberty tumbles by them. Another massive explosion, perhaps to similar to the 9/11 attacks sends a wave of smoke and debris down the street as the people take refuge in nearby stores.
Rob, Hud, Rob’s brother Jason, and friends Marlena (Caplan) and Lily (Yustman) try to flee from the city with hundreds of others, still unsure of what is happening. Their retreat is cut off as the monster destroys the bridge they are trying to cross. As they are forced back into the heart of the city, they catch only flashes of the creature as it passes between buildings, not even sure if what they are seeing is real. Their escape turns into a rescue mission as Rob receives a desperate phone call for help from his girlfriend, Beth. With the monster rampaging through the city, Rob’s attempt to save Beth seems like a suicide mission.
A lot of people didn’t care for the hand-held filming of Cloverfield and are unfortunately missing the point of the film. This wasn’t a movie about a giant monster attacking a city…been there done that. This is a film about real people reacting to a giant monster attacking a city. It would not have been as genuine had it been filmed in a traditional way. While experienced, the actors are essentially no-names and much more believable in their performances. I believed the performances. As annoying as Hud became with the camera, and the awful jokes, I’ve known quite a few obnoxious people just like him. Only Rob’s valiant rescue attempt came off as a bit contrived, and a cheesy attempt at feel good sentiment.
Adding to the austere realism of the film was its lack of music. There is nothing to distract the viewer from the sounds of carnage and screams in the background. Add to that the fact that the actual film only runs some 74 minutes (not including credits) and this is a sort of night in the life of a monster attack. We don’t know where the creature came from although there are a few hints and we don’t find out what happens to it at the end. That fatalistic viewpoint only heightens the movies affect.
Cloverfield was a polarizing film. People either seemed to really love it or really hate it. I appreciated the Director Matt Reeves stepping out of the box and doing something different with a genre that that hasn’t given fans much to cheer about in recent years. Cloverfield hits store shelves on April 22.
Special features included on the DVd include a 28:00 making of documentary, which includes interviews with the filmmakers and the actors.
There is a 22:00 featurette on the film’s visual effects and the creation of the monster and the parasites.
A gag reel 4:00
3:30 worth of deleted scenes
Two alternate endings, which really aren’t alternate endings in the usual sense and are the only thing in the packages that I was disappointed with.