I've never seen a film quite like Cloverfield. It is very unique to say the least and has impacted audiences around the country in like manner. First of all, I want to address how wide the range is for reviews on this movie. There have been a multitude of differing opinions - it even beats the likes of I Am Legend that had a host of conflicting ratings (arguably, the most controversial film of 2007). I will admit, this will be a challenge for me, perhaps my toughest review yet. You be the judge, and see how I do...
Here is my review. It's divided into 6 critique areas. It will contain no spoilers.
INTRO: The opening was perfect for this film. It explains EVERYTHING, and does a great job in preparing the mayhem. Characters are introduced, relationships are developed, and the main plot point is set in motion. The first 20 minutes lets us know EXACTLY why we're watching the last 40. Some felt that it was too long and stalled the action. Balogna. Without this introduction, this film fails on so many levels (other than the ones I'm going to mention). If they hadn't written it just the way they did, my thoughts would differ drastically. This first act is the ONLY reason I cared to watch the next two.
PLOT/PACING: When stripped to its core, it's very simple. This is survival-rescue. Since many common plot devices are absent in this genre, the entertainment is derived in the suspense, uncertainty, and drama of the moments. Cloverfield attempts to supply it, but it doesn't seem sincere. Watching a film through the lens of a camcorder doesn't garner a large target audience (isn't popular), but everything about this film screams HOLLYWOOD. The trailer seemed fresh out of a Spielberg doomsday flick, and the cast is a bunch of "teenagers." The marketing was just brutally misleading and the tone didn't flow with the premise or idea behind this movie. Writers have a chance to create REAL art with these types of films. They have an opportunity to go down in history and mark growth for the industry. But Cloverfield doesn't achieve this and it felt purposeful (like they weren't trying to do this). I would have empathy for their failed attempt at greatness, but I feel that the director just shamed everyone to the theatre.
ACTION: If you like running, screaming, and motion sickness, you're going to LOVE this. That's all there is. I can't say there is a different/better way to do it, I guess that was what they were going for, but much of it seemed a bit over-the-top. After the first attack, the action became standard "teenager" survival. Sure, it's definitely exciting in some portions, and you really hope they're going to make it, but a few of the cliche stunts and tricks can become annoying. The camera work is very interesting, though. You'll realize that there are things that the director wants you to see, and sequences that he doesn't.
CHARACTERS: Rather than actually bonding with or relating to these people, you just feel sorry for them more than anything. A crew of well-off young adults who find themselves in the most traumatic experience of their lives. Boo hoo. There was a hint of emotion that the director tried to play on, but here's a thought for him: Tragedy, or loss of family and friends are things that we as normal human beings relate to naturally. These are occurrences that AUTOMATICALLY draw out our feelings. Just because you "throw" these elements in your film doesn't make them wrenching or outstandingly touching. Having characters that are RELATABLE is what does this, and I just don't understand why they chose to play it this way with a "highschool, soft-core horror, teenager" cast. Why not have a varied range of characters with a varied range of backgrounds? How would a middle-aged man with a family to care for react? How would the poverty-stricken of New York look upon the destruction of society? Would a single mom be able to defend herself and her child? Would an all-wise grandfather figure step up to offer advice and protection? How about a convict seeing the system that confined him destroyed? Then, ONE "teenager" would be fine. But when all you have is a bunch of kids, it can become uninteresting.
CONCLUSION: Reminded me of a Shakespearean play. Love, loss, tragedy, and hope, are recurring themes in this film, and they ambitiously attempt to do something great with the last moments of screen time. But when your core ideas are surrounded by cliche hollywood action and a cliche hollywood cast, it's ruined. And as I mentioned, it seems as if it was ruined purposely. The director knew this thing flopped, so he released a falsified teaser trailer (that warrants his arrest) to get people in the theatre. This film should not have been done this way. What's worse, you'll be saying, "give me a break" with the way they ended this. Not that it was bad, on the contrary, but it felt SO out of place. It's like going to the opera wearing jeans and sneakers. This "shakespeare knock-off" ending just does not fit with this "hollywood-infested" movie.
SYNOPSIS: In grade school when people called you different, it carried a bad connotation. With disdain, I must say that the same can be applied to the film industry. When done honestly and courageously, an innovative angle CAN be successful. But when tainted by mainstream gimmicks, deceptive advertising, and cliche characters, it fails miserably. I give Cloverfield a BAD rating.
I will give this movie one thing: it delivered something different at the theater, and I can't say that it was predictable or boring. For all those looking for a twist on "normal" cinema, a rental wouldn't hurt too bad. It will have the boldness to surprise you. But unfortunately, if you want a superb take on alternative filming, you won't find it here...