Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Few Thoughts on Cloverfield


So if you haven’t seen Cloverfield—you know, that movie that didn’t have a title and then people gave it one so the filmmakers just stuck to that one—and you want to see it at some later date, don’t read this.

Still reading? Yes? No? I’ll give you a minute. I saw the Abrams flick last Friday. It was afternoon with a moderate crowd. At the end, a guy behind me, stood and shouted, “What the fuck was that! Did any of you enjoy that? What the fuck?” Several snickers but no serious responses later, we left. My response was more post-traumatic stress syndrome and motion sickness (I was dehydrated, hungry, and had work-related depression), but I’m more interested in the What-the-fuck Guy’s response than mine.

I wonder if the problem is point of view. POV.

Before I get to that, I can see Cloverfield’s DNA better than I got to see the monster. Pitch meeting:

“It’s Godzilla meets Blair Witch Project meets Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. Also, I’m J. J. Abrams.”

“Sold.”

Once upon a time, I saw Blair Witch in a crowded theater that ended in people yelling obscenities at the screen. Like the Witch, Cloverfield embeds you in a handheld camera POV, a point of view that is more personal, intimate, and limited than the objective classic Hollywood POV. Limited to only what the characters can film, some of the audience can feel claustrophobic. And some filmmakers feel this also means you can’t know more than the characters and that the less they know the more realistic the experience.

I wonder at how angry the What-the-fuck Guy got over what I expect is not knowing, not knowing enough about the monster—primarily, where did it come from? I wonder at his anger at so silly a desire to know and at the creator’s choice not to tell. In Night of the Living Dead, Romero simply had the characters watch a news program that interviewed government and military officials who basically said that because of our space exploration = zombies. That’s all it took, and I feel certain What-the-fuck Guy could’ve been placated with a simple news break (of which the characters saw plenty) that said they saw a meteor hit near the Statue of Liberty. Presto! Silly putty Godzilla-esque alien monster. I’ve read (but did not catch myself) that a satellite fell in the last scene of the movie—which was actually before the “present” action of the film and disturbed the monster that was hibernating on the bottom of the sea.

Now, I could comment on the silly 9/11 verses nuclear age themes of this modern NYC Godzilla. But why, why must the monsters and the witches be explained away?

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