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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cloverfield: A Review

Is it a minor message movie or is it just big, dumb fun? The question has been bounced around a little, and I found myself wondering about it when I went, sans fiance who stayed home sick, to see Cloverfield tonight.

First, and more important, though, I wondered if it would even work as big, dumb fun. The trailers had left me cold: Blair Witch meets Godzilla wasn’t inspiring me to spend nine bucks on a ticket. The early reviews and advice of friends won the day, though, and I’m glad they did.

Ignoring any possible social messages, the Blair Witch hook works far better for Cloverfield than it did the earlier movie simply because the plot--what there is of it--holds together better as the movie continues. Not that the plot is much more--and, actually, is probably less than some--than your typical monster movie. The difference is that, once viewers got past the Blair Witch personal video camera conceit, the movie becomes tedious and the characters unlikable. Cloverfield builds tension and pace, draping the story over characters too hurried to actually build much in the way of personality, all the way until a bit of a weak ending that did less to wrap things up than indicate that the whole endeavor just suddenly ran out of steam.

Like Blair Witch, it also helps that most of the movie exists without blatant, in-your-face shots of the monster--and when the real reveal comes late in the film, you’ll probably be glad that they didn’t focus much on the baddie.

Cloverfield also works better than, say, the 1998 abomination, Godzilla. In fact, Cloverfield is far more a spiritual successor to the original, 1954 Godzilla than any of that film’s sequels, but it does it on a lesser level.

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