Last July Michael Bay's latest creation, the live action adaptation of Transformers, arrived on the big screen. There it wowed audiences around the world while managing to kill a scant few brain cells. However, before we were able to see the robotic vehicles wage war around the world, we bore witness to a mysterious trailer. It had the Paramount and Bad Robot logos attached and it concluded with the head of the Statue of Liberty crashing down into the middle of the street. It had no title, only a date, 1-18-08, and it certainly set tongues a-wagging. It was easy enough to figure out that it was a monster movie, but what monster? Godzilla? Gamera? Voltron? Pokemon? Perhaps Lovecraft's Chthulu? It was all pure conjecture and neither producer JJ Abrams nor director Matt Reeves were talking. So, we waited. Finally, the wait is over, the magical date has come and we are able to experience the project whose date had been replaced with its codename: Cloverfield.
The film is a cross between the original Godzilla and Cannibal Holocaust (the more popular choice would be The Blair Witch Project, but where do you think they got the idea?). Take the monster genre and cross it with the idea of viewing found footage shot by someone (or someones) that are no longer around (missing, dead, you make the choice), the result is a thrilling and all encompassing film that will grab you by throat and refuse to let you go. You will be dragged kicking and screaming across a dangerous landscape where you cannot guess what lies around the next corner.
Beyond the surface of the concept, beyond the conceit of the handheld camera, this film is sure to hit home on an emotional level. Godzilla was made in the wake of the nuclear explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was a time when the threat and possibility of nuclear war was very real. Godzilla was, at least partially, a reaction to those fears. It is a frightening film that tapped into genuine feelings held at the time. Cloverfield operates in a similar vein. For those of you who saw the film, can you honestly say that 9/11 did not come to mind? It is nothing political, I do not feel the film is saying anything specific about the event. Instead, the film is making us confront our feelings and memories by putting us right in the middle of this disaster, the senseless destruction and unnecessary killing.
Fortunately, the film is more than a comment on that day. Unfortunately, the film is likely to spark a "love it" or "hate it" reaction, at least that is what I experienced. As my father and I sat through the credits marveling at what we had experienced, we heard many commenting on their, shall we say, distaste for what they had seen.