The bittersweet truth of Cloverfield is that the fans were right and the filmmakers were
wrong half-right. With the materialization of a vague teaser trailer before Transformers, JJ Abrams opened the gates to an empty amusement park and proceeded to tell no one what they were allowed to ride. Fans ate it up, the tubes became downright clogged with predictions and conspiracies and hopes and Cthulhu(s) and wishes and deep sea dwellers and lies and nothing. Plots were concocted, tested, debunked, and reformed again. All without zero confirmation from Paramount or JJ Abrams. All part of the marketing war machine.
The bittersweet part? JJ Abrams and Drew Goodard lacked the foresight to see that the vague theories materialized by the fans were better than their own. There is, without question, a tremendous story at the summit of Cloverfield. Abrams, Goodard and Reeves just couldn’t dream that high. The end result is blind date film making. Cloverfield is like two strangers set to meet at the party of a mutual friend. After spending 10 minutes together, the two realize the other isn’t what they expected and wander off. Thirty minutes later they can be seen standing on the opposite side of a now larger party. Unable to have hooked up with anyone else they try to yell over the confusion, try to establish some kind of meaningful communication.
They don’t. They communicate, but only in the same way that a duo communicates during a one night stand. There are pleasure zones to be reached, but Cloverfield is drunk and fumbling with bra clasps and zippers. The day after we, the collective we, will tell all our friends about it. And Cloverfield will go tell all its analyst friends. It’ll be a topic of conversation for the immediate future, but in a few months? A year? Two? Like a one night stand, the whole ordeal will be nothing but a faded memory.
At least it won’t be a punch line.
At least Cloverfield sobers up enough to stop fumbling and get some genuine game on. The monster is, in most respects, nothing mind bending, but still very, very badass. It is building sized, it is a monster and it does wreck the hell out of New York City. Good deal.
The shaky cam angle, however, is not a good deal. Let this be the death of the shaky cam. From a business point of view, the camcorder idea is a brilliant one. “You mean we get to make a monster movie for a tiny fraction of a blockbuster? We don’t even have to pay mainstream actors? I’ll buy that for a dollar!” From an audience point of view, it is nothing but frustrating. I very, very much so appreciate the moments in which we are, by proxy, given the clarity to see the destruction and mayhem. These moments are few and far between though. The ratio of wishing the camera was pointed somewhere else to times in which it is perfectly placed is about 13:1. At least the sound department is relentless.
There has been an interesting revelation since climbing out of the bed with Cloverfield: I had a lot of fun last night. It was exciting during its most passionate bouts, but the whole experience was too muddled at the time to be fully appraised. The morning after has bestowed hindsight on the whole shebang and I have far fewer complaints than expected. I don’t think I am going to be the only one, either. If someone told you that it sucked, that it wasn’t what they thought it would be, do not let that dissuade you. It might have had a headache while it was throwing down, but that is one of the conflicts inherent to the act of, well, throwing down. And Cloverfield can throw the fuck down when it wants to.
Abrams, Reeves and Goddard found a great story, after all. I will not go into spoiler territory, but if one were to itemize the events of Cloverfield…man, a lot of crazy happened. Did they find the best way to tell the story? From a budget stand point, yes. From a cinematic stand point, hell no. All the same, I’m willing to call up Cloverfield later. Maybe even holla, if you will. And it won’t be a drunk dial. I genuinely want to hang out with those long legs and deep, monstrous throat again.