Monday, January 21, 2008


Wunderkind J.J. Abrams' virally ballyhooed "Cloverfield" geek-gangbanged its way to an MLK weekend box office record, giving Hollywood another glimmer into the power of low budget viral-minded marketing that has provided mixed results. (i.e. "Blair Witch," "Snakes on a Plane")

And make no mistake, Abrams' monster mash is visually effective, just as "Blair Witch" was, (causing several audience members during my screening to lose their breakfast) and like "Blair Witch" it's equally as frustrating.

Just as "Blair Witch's" tiresome campers "Fuck!" and "Holy Shit!"-ed their way to a lame ass oh-my-god-he's-facing-the-wall-ending, Abram's yuppies "Oh My God!" ad nauseum through a film that combines the worse elements of "Felicity" with the inept plausibility of late Season 2/early Season 3 episodes of "Lost."

"Cloverfield's" protagonists are New Yorkers of the worst kind: non-New Yorker transports. They're whiny, self-absorbed, but not in a convincing New York-ian manner. It's as if Abrams fell asleep watching a marathon of "The Hills" and "Laguna Beach" and decided to forgo the whole finding plausible New York yuppies portion of the casting.

With holding a sense of realism within the main characters wouldn't normally be a problem in a monster/disaster pic like this if it were only consistent with the reality of "Cloverfield" but it isn't. While over the top schlock like "The Day After Tommorrow" and "Godzilla" reveled in it's so-bad-its-goodness, "Cloverfield" strives to exist well within realm of our reality, so much so, that it visually lends itself to comparisons to footage of the 9/11 attacks.

I'm not one to aim for the politically correct or unnecessarily protect people from supposedly disturbing images, but "Cloverfield," (more so that most standard monster mash fare) shamelessly exploits the cache of fear in a post 9/11 world without justifying it within it's supposed sci-fi reality.

The reptilian monster is a pathetically CGI-ed amalgam of mid 90's PC gaming fare, like a slapdash attempt at "Godzilla" with a splash of "Lost's'" cloud monster. The monster isn't scary, nor are the creepy crawlers it appears to wantonly drop.

The fear is all about the unknown, and not the unknown appearance of the monster, but the lack of provocation for the mindless carnage.

Not to get all socially righteous or anything, but it's interesting to note that while real life minorities were able to quell their seemingly brown-bred instinctual urges to loot and pillage during recent blackouts and terrorist attacks, Abrams' seems to believe his poor-man's Godzilla would drive 'the brown folk' to revert back to their "Summer of Sam" days.

With a better script, better cast, and even a marginal attempt at creating characters we can actually care about, "Cloverfield" could have been monster epic with tons of replay value. Instead, we're left with something empty and shameless, like a politician parlaying a tragedy he happened to be present at for the purpose of personal gain...not that anyone would actually do that or anything.

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