Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cloverfield Monster Revealed

In all seriousness, Cloverfield has all the makings of a massive failure. For one thing, this is probably the most coy movie and the most coy marketing ever done. For hiding the monster completely from view, giving only hints of its shadow, brief glimpses of it between buildings, they better have a very original, truly mind-blowing monster, if they're centering the entire movie around it. It seems so because the trailer has no hints of a storyline. Monster attacks, people run, destruction, military takes action. Remember how the trailers for the Hollywood Godzilla were equally coy?

This is, at best, an opening weekend hit when the masses rush out to find out just what exactly the monster is. Once word-of-mouth gets around, there will be others who'd just lose interest once they know what it is. Few would be curious enough to see for themselves. Repeat viewings would be out of the question because of the shaky cam.

So, what is the Cloverfield monster? Or would you rather see it for yourself?


Cloverfield is essentially a love story with a monster thrown in for box-office gains. It's about a guy who races across Manhattan to save the girl he loves, while a monster levels the city. In the film, you can find elements of The Host, Blair Witch, Godzilla, Starship Troopers and a load of other influences.

Now, the love story element is not what the marketing for this film focuses on. The viral strategy has caused numerous speculations and predictions about what the creature is. Even sans hindsight, many of the shots in the dark were pretty silly - some think it's Cthulhu rising out of the sea, others perceive the woman's silhouette as bloating or transforming. It's exactly the kind of reactions that the marketing folks had forseen, and if you fell for it, then you were being predictable.

Here's the clincher. The monster isn't surprising, awe-inducing, nor something unseen before. It's not very original nor mind-blowing.


It's just a very huge monster with very long limbs. It eats people. It's got a tail. It's not Cthulhu. It's not Godzilla. It's something closer to the mutant tadpole in The Host, but slower, larger and less agile.

Because of this, I think the filmmakers have failed miserably. It's not a film you'd see more than once. The shaky cam makes things hard to see, and once you get past all that coyness with the partial shots of the monster, there's nothing left in the movie. Come to think of it, there are actually not many shots of the monster.

Spielberg held the killer shark back for a long while too, before he showed you the head, the tail, the whole damned thing. But he had a great adventure story with colourful characters.

Ultimately, Cloverfield is just another in a long line of throwaway entertainment that Hollywood has been churning out in the last few years. Even so, it's a great marketing subject, and will have a long shelf-life long after it's gone from our screens merely because many things in the film are deliberately left unanswered. Where did the monster come from? What are the smaller nasties that fall off its body? What the hell is the meaning of the title? You can bet there'll be websites dedicated to explaining all these. But all of it feels fake and forced, unlike, say, 2001: A Space Odyssey which is philosophically open-ended to generate deeper discussions.

What it could perhaps be, is a reflection of the attitudes today.The fears and anxieties of 9-11 are undeniably evident in Cloverfield. The immediacy of the supposedly found footages from a hand-held camera documenting the city's destruction is deliberately similar to the news footage of New York we're now only too familiar with. But the monstrous threat remains faceless, nameless, generic and with questionable origins. Its motive, origin and history are not to be pondered upon. Just blow that threat away.

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