Cloverfield (Paramount, PG-13)

film_cloverfield_sm.jpgIs the state of the Bush era frightening the Hollywood left so much that films like Cloverfield and I Am Legend no longer represent entertainment but a haunting premonition?







In continuing the trend of recent films depicting (or is it forewarning of?) the apocalypse, Cloverfield joins the ranks of Children of Men, I Am Legend and The Mist before it in solidifying the fact that Hollywood is probably more scared of the Judgment Day than the most adamant of Bush detractors. Produced by Lost creator J.J. Abrams, Cloverfield is essentially an experimental summer movie thrown into the unusual studio dumping ground of January, a monster film shot in Blair Witch-style handheld, chronicling (yet again) the post-9/11 fear of the destruction of New York City and, with it, civilization as we know it. With all the cryptic hype Paramount has been circling around the web and television, they’ve regrettably left too much to be expected from Cloverfield.

In many ways, Cloverfield exists as a possibility more than a film. When the trailer first surfaced, the film was without a title, puzzling and enticing its potential audience with the fear of the unknown. The suggestion of a monster just piqued interest and coming from Abrams, who’s yet to reveal the identity of the ominous monster on the island of Lost, perhaps we’d never look at monster movies quite the same way. Unfortunately, that was all just speculation; the unveiling of Cloverfield could never match the excitement of its own unreached possibilities.

Cloverfield doesn’t so much depict "this is how the world will end" as it does "this is how a bunch of douche bags will record how the world will end." Opening the film hours before the rapture, lovebirds Lily (Jessica Lucas) and Jason (Mike Vogel) plan a going-away party for Jason’s brother Rob (Michael Stahl-David), who’s just accepted a vice president job in Japan (no, there isn’t a Godzilla reference anywhere in sight). Taking place in an expensive lower Manhattan loft, the twentysomething yuppies drink and mope and toss the word "bro" around like a frat party. Much to the audience’s delight, Rob’s whining troubles with the girl he loves Beth (Odette Yustman) come to a halt when that party-crasher of a monster decides to take over the city.

In turning its cameras to these witless saps, director Matt Reeves (The Pallbearer…yes, that one) suggests the possibility of playing the Eli Roth card in setting up severely unlikable individuals into a situation where they will undoubtedly meet their maker at some point throughout the film. The catalyst of the film’s progression is Rob’s dumb notion of saving Beth from her collapsing apartment building and his friends’ even more inane inclination to aid him in his quest for love. If you didn’t look forward to the monster eating up the characters for being a bunch of tools, your opinion may change when Reeves allows them to act like a bunch of movie idiots. Feeble attempts at making the audience care for the individuals proves what I had feared: they wanted you to like these people.

My adoration for Lost won’t allow me to say bad things about Abrams, though he’s probably not to blame for Cloverfield‘s shortcomings. Unfortunately for Reeves and screenwriter Drew Goddard, the fault then lies on their shoulders in failing to recognize the supposed elimination of the lousy moldings of Hollywood films through the "realness" of their camera. They instead toss the glossiness of production and leave the schmaltziness of a shitty Hollywood screenplay where love must conquer the logical thought-process of the human being. My mind begins to explode when I try to think about the mirror effect of society and cinema; are human beings slowly turning into Hollywood movie clichés? Is the state of the Bush era frightening the Hollywood left so much that films like Cloverfield and I Am Legend no longer represent entertainment but a haunting premonition? Philosophy aside, Cloverfield shows us the end of the world in ways neither haunting nor hopeful, neither bleak nor fearful. Instead, the apocalypse just becomes emotionless fact in Cloverfield. Rest assured, though, as it looks as if the douche bags will be the first casualty. | Joe Bowman

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