Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Odette Yustman, Lizzy Caplan, Mike Vogel, Jessica Lucas, Michael Stahl-David, T.J. Miller, Clovey
Directed by Matt Reeves
Distributed by Paramount Home Entertainment
Thank god for international travel! Producer J.J. Abrams happened to be in a Japanese toy store looking at Godzilla dolls when it occurred to him that Big G was their national monster! Wouldn't it be cool it the States had one as well? From there the wheels started turning and Clovey was born. What followed was a kickass trailer that told us nothing and led to Internet speculation that would spread like a California wildfire! Was this a new Godzilla movie? Was it a Voltron(!) movie? Was it a movie called Cheese? For a while all we had was a date -- 1.18.08. Thankfully it wasn't long before pieces of the puzzle began revealing themselves, and one of the best giant monster (or Kaiju) movies ever made was unleashed on Western audiences with great ferocity. The film, Cloverfield as it was eventually titled, opened wide in January and set a box office record for that month. Could its DVD cousin be poised to clean up the cash again? Are there any more clues about what the monster is (or was) on the DVD? Sit back, kids, because Clovey is about to start its rampage anew!
Rob (Stahl-David) had an amazing future planned. He was headed to Japan to start a new gig that would set him on the road to living comfortably. Too bad he'd have to leave all his friends, his brother, and his long-time love interest (with whom he'd finally gotten into the sack) behind. The movie centers on the night of his going-away party. His best friend Hud (Miller) has been given the job of recording testimonials for Rob so he can relive the memory of this night via home video. Would he want to remember though? Going-away parties are notoriously awkward, and this one was no exception until ... the ground shakes, the lights go out, and New York City starts screaming while crumbling. What's the cause of all this ruckus? A three-hundred-foot creature that's packing not only lots of bite, but also hundreds of smaller blood-hungry parasites. Before you know it, we're embroiled in some good old fashioned military vs. monster action, all shot cinéma-vérité style!
What we have here is essentially Godzilla meets The Blair Witch. We follow our heroes as they (sometimes) narrowly escape creature encounters from the lens of Hud's camera, and the results are incredible to say the least. Be warned, though. Many folks without their sea legs have gotten sick due to the film's run-and-gun style, even folks who endured similar camera techniques in Blair. Hopefully on the smaller screen motion sickness won't be as much of a problem as it was in theatres. You should at least try to make it through because Cloverfield is nothing short of a spectacle. A fast and furious thrill ride through a monster-laden battlefield. There were, however, a couple of bumps in the mostly smooth road for me. For instance, some of the characters' motivations seemed a bit daft. Doing something for love is one thing; doing said something while a giant pissed-off monster is riding up your ass bringing buildings crashing down around you is a whole different story! Also, there are a few false notes hit here and there that briefly take the viewer out of the experience. Despite these minor shortcomings Cloverfield is sitting high up on my year-end best of list and is as close to perfect as it gets. It's nothing short of a love letter to the Kaiju films we all grew up watching and adoring.
I want more. Much more. And this DVD does a good job of fleshing out what it took to bring this ambitious project to fruition. What it doesn't do is further along any lingering speculation about the creature or the events of the film. Wondering what that was at the very end that splashed into the water to the left of the boat in Coney Island? Keep wondering as it's not addressed even in the commentary. I guess Abrams and Reeves decided to keep things a mystery. It's more fun that way anyhow. For the keen-eyed viewer there are a few easter eggs to be found on the DVD and even within the film itself (i.e., still shots of some great movies like the original King Kong, Them!, and The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms are there to be seen during Cloverfield in subliminal penile Fight Club style so have your DVD remotes ready if you wanna catch them).
The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (00:45.29)
King Kong (1:06.55)
Now then, on to the special features. The DVD is pretty stacked but not as packing as I'm sure some folks (myself included) would have liked. After a lively and engaging commentary with director Matt Reeves, the festivities are kicked off with the nearly thirty-minute featurette Document 01.18.08: The Making of Cloverfield. Here we are treated to a genuinely interesting making-of that covers the genesis of the idea, how the cast themselves were kept in the dark, and of course all that crazy speculation while also shedding some light on the filming of some of the flick's amazing set pieces. If you're a fan, this is your hot yet brief ticket for some behind-the-scenes goodness. From there we get about six minutes with lead creature designer Neville Page on the look and plight of Clovey called I Saw It! It's Alive! It's Huge! Apparently the monster, even at three hundred feet tall, was still supposed to be a newborn (I'd hate to see the adult) that was thrown into a foreign world and then attacked. His roars were to be not those of anger, but of fright. Calling out to its mother if you will. This is a really cool idea though it didn't convey well on screen. Nice to know though. Kind of puts a different slant on things. You can almost empathize with the creature. Almost.
Next up we have a twenty-three-minute look at the film's visual F/X, which is exactly what it says that it is; a quick four minute gag-reel; and then it was time for the moment I've been anticipating ... the deleted scenes and alternate endings! Color me disappointed. The new scenes and endings add nothing to the film itself and, truth be told, were wisely excised. The four deleted scenes are about four minutes long combined, and the endings are almost the same except for the last few moments of each. Sorry, folks, but there's nothing to see here. Man, what a letdown!
So there you have it -- the skinny on the home video release of one of the most anticipated films of the year! Did it live up to its hype? For me I'd say yes. It gave me every single thing that I could have wanted from it and more. It's good to see monster movies back on the map! It's especially good when the environments on said map are nothing but heaps of smoldering rubble and dust with giant footprints in them. Here's hoping that mama hears her baby's call!
4 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5
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