“I saw it. It’s alive. It’s huge.”

Monday, January 21st, 2008 | All Things, Film

Yes, I bought into the hype. Last summer’s viral marketing campaign surrounding fanboyfavorite J.J. Abrams‘s new project, the nameless trailer, the cryptic film website www.1-18-08.com (Cloverfield‘s release date), the flurry of possibly affiliated websites… it all proved irresistible to my inner — and outer — geek.

The conceit: a videotape retrieved from the area “formerly known as Central Park” after an apocalyptic incident code-named “Cloverfield.” Described as Godzilla meets The Blair Witch Project (sprinkled with 9/11 anxieties), the entire film is shot with a handheld camera, so those sensitive to motion sickness should consider themselves forewarned. (With a running time of 84 minutes, the shaky camera work is intense, yet mercifully brief.) The movie begins at a downtown loft party, populated by a certain type of insufferable New Yorker, on a night when Manhattan comes under attack by an enormous, briefly-glimpsed monster. What is the morbid fascination movie-goers have with watching New York City get destroyed?

Cloverfield has a lo-fi look, but impressive special effects, which allegedly cost a little over $30 million. To put it in perspective, that’s just $10 million more than Will Smith’s salary for I Am Legend, the other NYC-based apocalyptic film in theaters now.

Here, the single camera POV works well in conveying the chaos and mass confusion. The disorientation and visceral panic of being down in the streets in the midst of the destruction kept the tension high throughout. As typical for this type of film, my emotional investment in the characters was minimal — let’s face it, they’re not a particularly sympathetic group — but the alternating glimpses of original tape footage, showing one of the telegenic couples during recent, happier times does work effectively in jarring juxtaposition. (It is in those sweetly intimate snippets that we see hints of director Matt Reeves‘s previous work with Abrams on the WB’s “Felicity.”)

Columbus Circle

The Times‘s Manohla Dargis appreciated Cloverfield quite a bit less (“Rarely have I rooted for a monster with such enthusiasm“), but other critics responded more positively. More importantly, from the studio’s perspective, so did audiences, who flocked to theaters opening weekend to the tune of $41+ million in ticket sales, surpassing the January record of $35.9 million set by the Star Wars special edition re-release in 1997.

By the way: a gigantic reptilian beast laying waste to Manhattan, dropping vicious crab/spider creatures along the way — sure… could happen. Cell phones working during the siege — hmm, seems unlikely, but… well, okay. But reaching Bloomingdale’s from Spring Street on foot via subway tunnel in a few, albeit action-packed, real-time minutes? The audience at our afternoon screening audibly scoffed. C’mon… it’s clear that writer Drew Goddard, director Reeves and producer Abrams all hail from L.A. because as any New Yorker could tell you: that just makes no sense whatsoever.

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There are 7 Comments ... “I saw it. It’s alive. It’s huge.”

January 28, 2008

I still love NY, even if it is seemingly overrun by the douchey.

January 29, 2008

I don’t think our city is overrun. They just tend to get disproportionate coverage.

January 29, 2008

I am Legend came to Japan with quite a bit of hype, but I’ve never heard of this one.

“What is the morbid fascination movie-goers have with watching New York City get destroyed?”

Ok, I thought it was just me. I’m glad you noticed that too.

Nice job outing the director’s lack of NYC geography.
I find this sort of thing incredibly common in movies these days.
I think the problem is that ALL of the scripts are written while staring out at the Pacific Ocean and everything else can be done in CG (even the camera shakes!) nowadays, so there is no sense or even concern for the location

Reminds me of that complete waste of time movie Transformers, where they give a completely unathletic (<-is that not a word?) high school kid this box that holds the fate of the world and tell him to run like 15 blocks with it and climb to the top of a building and wait for the army, who are completely powerless against the ‘bad guys’, to come pick him up. Meanwhile giant robots are trashing the place, half of whom have no regard for human life and want nothing more than to get hold of that box.

It’s easily one of the most ridiculous plot lines ever in an already ridiculously stupid movie. I didn’t know they were going to keep it aimed at the same age group as the original toys and animated series were. It was a cheap rental, thankfully.

January 29, 2008

“Unathletic” is a word, but one which probably no longer applies to Transformers star Shia LaBeouf, who is buffing up in a serious way for the next Indiana Jones installment — in theaters May 2008. (And I’m slightly embarrassed to be linking to photos here, but in the interests of evidentiary support…)

Agree with you about the movie, except on two points: the transforming footage was pretty awesome, as was the return of Peter Cullen, the original voice of Optimus Prime.

As for inaccurate NYC movie geography… it bugs me primarily because it’s the kind of thing that could be researched very easily – even while staring over the clear-blue waters of the Pacific.

February 10, 2008

I bow down to your cinema knowledge. m(_ _)m

I was really embarrassed with myself for even bringing up the Transformers movie, but your city geography gripe brought that scene very clearly to mind.

“Unathletic” gets flagged by the auto-spellcheck for some reason. I didn’t bother to look in a real dictionary. So that guy is in the new Indy Jones movie? Wow. Well, I guess I didn’t mean the actor, but his character was supposed to be unathletic in the movie, getting cut from the football team. I just clicked the link (sorry to make you add those links), but I don’t even recognise him. I guess I was paying too much attention to his co-star… and I don’t mean Optimus Prime www hahaha

Whoa, isn’t Karen Allen the actress who played Marion in the first movie?
I could just google, that, I know…. I did, she is. I had my doubts about this movie, but no more. 🙂

The problem with inaccurate film geography is not so much a lack of google skill, but more the fact that they obviously just don’t care if it’s accurate or not. It’s kind of insulting.

As if I haven’t gone off topic enough already.
Have you seen Persepolis?

btw, can I add html tags to format text? or does your blog use a different coding system?

February 11, 2008

Shia LaBeouf’s co-star? Oh, you must mean autobot Bumblebee. Yeah. he’s cool. 🙂

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Mark your calendars for May 22, 2008.

Have not seen Persepolis. I have the graphic novel at home, somewhere among the scores of books piled up in my living room. (If only that were an exaggeration.)

HTML allowed — tag away.

March 7, 2008

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