ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday May 4, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 49

Not another Godzilla

Cast: Michael Stahl-David, T.J. Miller, Jessica Lucas, Odette Yustman
Director: Matt Reeves Running Time: 84 minutes

Cloverfield revolves around the fictional destruction of New York by an enormous monster, which emerges from the ocean. The film follows five New Yorkers who struggle to rescue a friend while coming to grips with what is actually happening on the streets. The five also encounter dog-like parasites that seem to fall off the monsters back and attack the civilians. Same old Godzilla movie huh? Not quite.

Director, Matt Reeves (The Yards, 28 Weeks Later) presents the movie as one filmed with a hand-held camera by one of the characters Hudd (T. J. Miller). This style was popularised by the creators of the 1999 success and one of my personal favourites The Blair Witch Project.

In the beginning of the film it is understood that the footage was recovered by the military in an area known as US-447 which was formerly known as Central Park.

The footage begins with the protagonist Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David) and long time friend and lover Beth (Yustman) deciding to spend the day at Coney Island. The footage is then taped over with Rob's farewell party when a sudden tremor and a blackout spark the horrific events which are to follow.

So the comparatively low-budget, hushed up movie makes it to the screen and eventually tears down all the teeming speculations of the plot-line floating around on the net. First introduced as a blurry and vague trailer revealed in cinemas during the showing of Transformers, it did not even give the audience the pleasure of a title. Instead, producer J. J. Abrams (Lost, Alias) decided that the release date was more than sufficient to keep the audience interested.

I was particularly impressed with the beginning when the movie attempts to build on characters instead of the origins of the creature. Furthermore, the introduction of the creature was slow which would have the audience guessing as to what they would eventually see while the chilling scene where the head of Lady Liberty comes crashing down in front of the five characters was particularly brave.

However, the storyline which has been hacked a number of times with the remaking of popular films such as Godzilla and King Kong, depends heavily on the realism it portrays through the filming style it employs.

The makers laid subtle hints throughout the movie which can help the audience decide the creature's birth for themselves. One such scene was a cutback scene to footage of the protagonists' visit to Coney Island where something is seen falling from the sky into the ocean in the distance. But this was incredibly hard to spot.

I still thought the movie lost its appeal towards the middle of the film where the five friends decide to go in search of the helpless Beth. The promising beginning seemed to fade off towards the end when the situation became helpless and almost apocalyptic.

The scenes on the streets bore a striking resemblance to some which were filmed during the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre which received mixed reviews on the sensitivity of the producers. The movie also had a clear resemblance to the 1998 Godzilla movie while the final scene in which Rob and Beth give their final account directly to the camera was undoubtedly out of The Blair Witch Project.

The movie also does give the hint of a much needed sequel in a scene on the Brooklyn Bridge where another cameraman is also filming the event. During this scene both cameramen focus on each other for a second while the film's producers have already admitted that this could be the point in which the two movies intersect. Furthermore, after the closing credits a voice on a radio can clearly be heard saying 'help us' and when played backwards the voice also says 'It's still alive.' Hopefully the sequel will provide more answers than the first film.

Overall, the film was definitely worth the watch. However, due to some poor acting and a completely unoriginal script viewers may tend to get bored with it in the middle and frustrated towards the end. Regardless of its unimaginative plot the realism in which it is filmed still makes it a decent watch.

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