Revisiting my score for Cloverfield

It is a very very VERY rare occasion when I change my inital score of a movie. It happens only once in a blue moon (as the old cliche’ goes…)

Since we reviewed Cloverfield on Sunday’s edition of Subject:CINEMA, I have been giving the movie a lot of thought.  This lot of thought was triggered by the fact that nobody I went with – Kim and our friends Stacy and Jenn – liked it, while I did.

Kim wasn’t able to put her finger on WHY she didn’t like it, she just didn’t. I HATE those kind of "Because I said so" arguments, but she knows what she likes, and she definately did NOT like it.

Initially, I scored the movie a 4.0 out of 5 – pretty high as it is –  citing the beginning of the movie, which I felt was awfully whiny and self-absorbed.

But isn’t that exactly WHAT we were supposed to see? Maybe I was a little harsh in my expectations. You’re NOT supposed to care about the partygoers, really…not until the trouble starts. And by that point, you ARE learning to care about Rob, and Lilly, and Marlena, and Hub…and Jason as well…

Stacy and Kim both didn’t think there was enough of the monster. Ok, fine…but if that’s the case, let me ask this question – What amateur with a camcorder could possibly be expected to capture more than a glimpse of a monster that’s killing people right and left without rhyme or reason while running from it?

If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re asking WAY too much of this movie. And you’re ignoring that very fact – this isn’t SUPPOSED to be a filmmaker; it’s supposed to be a terrified 20-something carrying a video camera while running for his life.

Besides, you get a REALLY GOOD LOOK at the monster – IMHO – in the final 8 or 9 minutes of the movie, and not once but TWICE – first, from the helicopter, and then from the first person shot. Is it enough? That’s an individual call, but for me…yes, it was. And is.

I also called the movie "innovative", which Stacy took issue with. She pointed out that "The Blair Witch Project" came first. SO What? It’s been almost nine years since that movie…and what movie has used the first person techinique since then? I can’t even think of ONE. And there has NEVER been a first person camera movie of this scale…Cloverfield takes the innovations used in Blair Witch and blows them away by a hundredfold at least. The Blair Witch Project is cataloging the goings on of three or four people out in the woods somewhere – Cloverfield is cataloging the destruction of a major US city and the thousands of people it’s affecting.  Comparing the techinques – fine. Comparing the scale – not even close.

So as I was thinking of the basic arguments, I began to think of WHY I liked Cloverfield so much. As I said on the show this week, I normally HATE monster movies. Then it dawned on me…

The critics calling it a monster movie are wrong…Cloverfield is NOT a giant monster movie…giant monster movies are about the monster…Godzilla, Gorgo, even Reptilicius…they’re the focal point of those movies.

No, Cloverfield is a DISASTER movie. It’s primary focus is NOT the monster, but the havoc and destruction he’s causing, and how it affects one group of friends in Manhattan. It’s the scale of the disaster that’s happening that is the focal point…the monster is there and is the cause, no doubt, but it’s the HUMAN factor that’s the true story.

The question that the audience asks first (apart from my little group, heh heh) is not "How are we going to kill this thing?" but "Are Rob and his friends going to survive this attack?".

It is on that very point that everyone’s personal perception hinges. If you’re asking yourself the first question, you’re not going to like this movie. If you’re asking yourself the second question, then you are.

The cinema style used – and NOT used – in Cloverfield – and how effectively it was utilized – will make it go down in history as a movie that becomes part of your basic curriculum in film school – and unlike Blair Witch, which didn’t really spawn any major imitations (unless you count this movie) until now, Cloverfield WILL.

So after thinking long and hard about it, I’ve decided to revisit my original assessment, and regrade the movie. After taking into account the above, and my own thoughts that were bugging me after seeing it the first time, I am changing my score for Cloverfield from a 4.0 to a 4.5 – it still had one or two little flaws that bugged me, but not enough to knock the score down a whole point.

And as I was composing the above, Kim finally put her finger on WHY she didn’t like the movie:

"The reason’s been kicking around in my head for a few days, and you making me think about it has brought it to the surface.

There’s no POINT.  We don’t know why things are happening the way they are.

Real Life is random like that.

When I go to the movies, I want more than Real Life.

And THAT’S why I don’t like "Cloverfield".

Now it makes sense to me, for her and even more for me.