' ' Cinema Romantico: Cloverfield

Monday, February 04, 2008


At film's opening a couple title cards advise that what we are about to witness is footage recovered from Central Park....excuse me, my apologies, that should be the area formerly known as Central Park. For the footage, you see, shows us a group of friends throwing a surprise party for Rob and then luckless Hap being put in charge of filming everyone's goodbyes to Rob and then a possible "earthquake" rocking New York City and everyone naturally freaking out except it turns out not to be an earthquake but instead Godzilla....excuse me, my apologies again, as we don't know for sure that it's Godzilla we'll call it "Godzilla" (the quotation marks being used to indicate that it's a Godzilla-like creature which is never explained, thank God). The film follows us a group of several characters who, rather than evacuating, head into the heart of midtown Manhattan to save the woman Rob loves.

Now because the movie's gimmick is that we're watching recovered footage of the event this means the entire movie is filmed from the vantage point of this one character running around with a video camera. And this, of course, means herky jerky, motion-sickness-inducing camerawork is bountiful.

How is it that the woman Rob loves just happens to be in midtown which just happens to be where "Godzilla" seems insistent on causing the most damage? If "Godzilla" were to suddenly land in whatever town you, my faithful, devout reader, reside in tomorrow and there was one person you loved in a different part of the town you needed to rescue, well, of course that person would be in the one part of town where "Godzilla" was insistent on causing the most damage. It's called The Way The World Works. Deal with it.

Why wouldn't Hap simply put the camera down? One question I heard tossed about rather often post-September 11 was how so many people with cameras just happened to be in New York City on such a significant day. Uh, they didn't just happen to be in New York City. No, that's what people in this day and age do in an extreme, historical situation. They grab their cameras and film. I fully believe if "Godzilla" showed up and started wreaking havoc in Chicago that I'd see tons of people out on Michigan Avenue documenting the whole mess.

Would he film for so long and even in situations where he needed to assist friends in times of crisis? Probably not. But then you have to be willing to suspend disbelief, don't you? Or do you?

Okay, while I found some of "Cloverfield" fairly engrossing, this is the problem I had with it. The whole concept actually made some parts of the film less effective just because you couldn't see what was happening. I understand that's part of the experience - the characters don't know what's happening and so we don't know what's happening - but a lot of the drama, I think, gets lost in the shuffle. Why can't a filmmaker meet in the middle ground between a full-on movie and something like this that wants to feel like a full-on documentary? I thought there were parts of Speilberg's "War of the Worlds" that found that middle ground and when they did, oh boy, was it fantastic. But since it was Spielberg and Spielberg, as we know, anymore seems intent on ruining his own movies to the fullest extent of capabilities it all ended up falling apart. And there were glimpses of those moments in "Cloverfield" but not enough and none for truly extended periods of time.

So I'm calling on some director out there to take this whole "Cloverfield" concept and not film the whole damn thing on a video camera but still do it with a pseudo-documentary feel and not get all happy crapsy, let's-tie-everything-up-with-a-lovely-bow at the end and see what happens. Michael Mann, maybe? Could you please stand up?

And finally, does the herky jerky camerawork make this an emotionally and physically unsettling experience? Well, I'll admit that I had a little headache and felt sorta' nauseous but when our characters were standing in one tall building and set to jump over to another tall building that was in a state of collapse to climb down air conditioner shafts to find a woman who may or may not have been alive and all with the agonizing moans and groans of "Godzilla" in the distance I couldn't help but think if I was in the same situation that, well, I'd probably have a headache and feel nauseous.

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