Tuesday, April 29, 2008

So how much did I hate Cloverfield?

“A lot.” I’ll go with “a lot.”

Wait! I didn’t go through the entire list of acceptable answers first. Can I change that to “With a white hot hate”? Thanks, that’s my final answer.

I didn’t see Cloverfield in the movie theater, but instead waited until it was out on DVD. You might think because I am over 50, I really don’t count as the movie’s target demographic, but regular readers will verify that my psychological maturity is much, MUCH lower than my chronological age. I am still a nerd, and this movie cried out to us nerds. Giant monster in New York! Destruction, panic and terror!

Good times.

At least they should have been.

Let me break down my reasons for hating this movie into several major categories.

(Warning: this review contains several spoilers and liberal use of the word very in the place of obscenities used as adjectives, following the Dr. Zaius rules of editing.)


Hating on the back story. Let's start with the silly MTV style soap opera that is the plot of the movie before the big scary monster shows up. This guy and girl have been friends since college. Somebody in the movie says that she is "way out of his league." The big secret is that they have only recently slept together. This happens just before he is about to leave for Japan to take a new job as a vice president. He sleeps with her and then doesn't call her. She shows up two weeks later at his going away party with somebody new. Fireworks ensue.

First off, look at them. She's really pretty, but HE'S really pretty, too! And he's got a job that a guy who looks like a male model or front man for a rock group shouldn't have! If he is out of her league, she doesn't have a very impossible league. She would be physically incapable of having sex with anyone, because no male on the planet would meet the criteria. (Note to my lavender friends: If she were on your team, no female would meet the criteria, either.)

Hating on the front story. Of course, all the emotional drama of the first few minutes of the film is just something to let you finish your popcorn before the Big Bad shows up. We are at the going away party, and one of Mr. Pretty's friends, an idiot named Hud, is wandering around the party with a camera recording the moments for posterity. If Mr. Pretty has any character flaw, it's that he's still friends with this very stupid guy. The whole conceit of the movie is that we see the monster attack from the ground level only, through the lens of this camera. It's not supposed to be a big camera, as we can see in this production still from the movie, but there are times in the movie when it has very impossible abilities. It has a flood light capable of lighting up a dark subway tunnel for yards in advance, and it has see in the dark mode and any of a number of other magic things it can do.

The thing is, the movie is over when this guy puts down the very stupid camera, and nobody, not even this idiot, would fail to see that he should put down the very stupid camera at multiple moments in the film. For instance, when you are being chased by carnivorous aliens in a dark tunnel, and you are being out-run by two women wearing high heels, it's probably time to stop carrying the camera and concentrate on saving your life. Likewise, when they enter the building that is leaning against another building, you probably need both hands to climb and keep your balance and the like, but as soon as this very dense pinhead figures that out, no movie!

Hating on the multiple derivative nature. I put the blame for what is wrong with the movie on the shoulders of the writer Drew Goddard, who worked with Joss Whedon on Buffy and Angel before becoming part of the J.J. Abrams universe, and also the lead monster designer Neville Page. The hand held camera thing is derivative of The Blair Witch Project, without the charm of being shot on a budget that could barely buy a new car. The big monster wasn't scary enough, so the big monster sheds a bunch of little monsters, not unlike the dreadful American version of Godzilla. (Both of these movies could be said to be derivative of the double threat of the T. Rex and the raptors in Jurassic Park, but at least that came from the book itself.) The little monsters look very much like the bugs in Starship Troopers, as if nerds like us aren't going to notice. And as for obvious theft of plot devices, hot chick trapped by having rebar stuck through her shoulder? Drew, you worked on Buffy! The show can still be seen in reruns! Stop stealing from old employers!

Hating on the reason it was made. I didn't like the movie enough to sit through the commentary track, but I did watch some of the "making of" shorts in the special features menu. The original idea for greenlighting this very stupid piece of cheese was when J.J. Abrams went to Japan and saw that Godzilla was still a cultural icon over 50 years after the first film was finished. "We don't have a monster like that, except for King Kong." said Abrams, and hoped he could make that kind of cultural touchstone.

Idiot! We have that cultural touchstone. King Kong! We don't sell a lot of King Kong merchandise in the same way Godzilla merchandise is sold, but it's still a cultural touchstone. Also! Your monster? Not a cultural touchstone! Not going to be this Christmas' big hit! Why? Because we never get a really good look at the thing because the whole very annoying film is shot on a very annoying hand held camera!

In conclusion, instead of watching this film, spend two hours constructing a well written letter to Nancy Pelosi on why she should start impeachment proceedings against Bush and Cheney. This will also be two hours of your life wasted, but at least you can say you were trying to do something useful when you wasted them.

12 comments:

CDP said...

I know I'd hate this movie. Let me know what you hear back from Speaker Pelosi. Chris Van Hollen (MD 8th, my representative) wrote back to me that he and his colleagues feel that the country is better served if the Congress focuses on more pressing matters, rather than devoting resources to a divisive impeachment fight. This was a few days after the Roger Clemens hearing, so I wrote back asking why, if they're worried about using the Congress' time wisely, were they holding hearings about what Roger Clemens did or did not put into his body. Haven't heard back yet.

dguzman said...

Great alternate plan for what to do with those couple of hours. We could apply it to so many activities, really--but then, I guess it just ends up being a waste of time and paper.

FranIAm said...

You know, that is exactly the kind of movie that appeals to me.

And yet I knew to avoid that one.

Seems I was right. For once!!

Matty Boy said...

I have to say that the phenomenon that is J.J. Abrams is getting on my last good nerve. I gave up on Lost somewhere in the middle of season two, and then there's this. I really want to see Watchmen and the next Star Trek just because of my nerd DNA, but I'm starting to lose hope that they will be any good.

sfmike said...

I share your J.J. Abrams fatigue and I'm SO happy you posted this rant in such delirious detail. Now I know exactly why my intuition was correct and I don't have to see this movie, ever. Though not a nerd, I have been known to waste a hungover afternoon watching Sci-Fi Network made-for-TV movies. In fact, there was a hilarious trio of movies on recently with dumb white people being attacked by birds or dinosaurs or dinobirds, depending on the flick, and in concert the trio were deeply satisfying.

And Abrams is a complete idiot about there being no good American monsters. Has the idiot never heard of "The Creature of the Black Lagoon," or "Alien," for chrissake.

Again, thanks for the politically informed consumer report.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Hahahaha, I knew better than to rent this flick. I'll wait until hell freezes over before I pay to see it. Hahahaha.

Matty Boy said...

Dear Mike: If you can sit through more than one made-for-SciFi channel movie, it might be time to come out of the nerd closet.

I kid. For instance, just because I love showtunes doesn't mean...

I wasn't specific enough about Abrams statement. He was talking about iconic GIANT movie monsters, city destroyers like Godzilla. He's right that no giant American movie monster is a merchandising machine like Godzilla, though in the movie poster world King Kong matches Godzilla.

And... ahem... so does The Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman.

Thought I might bring that up. Not exactly sure why.

Dee Loralei said...

Lost is much better this season Matty. And I'll take your word for it about Cloverfeild. But I'm with SFMike, I love me some truly awful really bad made for Sci-fi channel movies. And he does need to embrace his inner nerd, if he likes them too.

For good TV Sci-fi check out BBC Americas Torchwood series, season 2 just ended. Really interesting humans and cool other creatures and a neat story-arc. And the Dr Who's starring David Tennant are fun. Also BBCA's RobinHood is a really good and silly hour of TV. All available on Netflix, thought Season 2 of RobinHood just started last Saturday.

Dusty said...

I love it when someone tells me everything about a movie..thanks! :)

Matty Boy said...

Well, Dusty... I did say there were spoilers and then put in a picture to give you time to look away before I explained the movie.

Dusty said...

I wasn't bitching Matty, I sincerely appreciate your post :)

Distributorcap said...

i am glad you watched so i didnt have to --- you make a very good taste tester on movies