Big Monsters = yay
It's been a little while since I watched Cloverfield - how long ago was it in the cinemas? eh - but better late than never with my two cents.
So - giant monster, check. Minor gribblies, check. Love story? Inevitably. Armed forces? Oh yes. Tanks batted away like toy cars? Yep. It's all in there. How would we know it was a monster flick if it wasn't?
But something keeps creeping in around the edges. There's the well considered, funny, (slightly over-long) intro-sequence setting up the characters' motivations in detail before the raucous business of mass-death kicks off. The handicam footage which, although contrived, works, the most sensible way to convey the everyman protagonists' point of view. And the everyman protagonists! Sure the army trounce back and forth and (we assume) the scientists work hard, but the characters are
That substance seeping in around the edges is called innovation. Not true innovation, not that grade-A stuff you have to treck to the edges of intelligibility to find (The Girl With the X-Ray Eyes, loudly touted in the arts centre press, accompanied by a curious but enjoyable theramin rendition and an excellent essay reading on the origins of the X-ray dream, was drek, dull, uninspired drek, which neither challenged the subject of the documentary nor engaged the audience. The accompaniment by live theramin - presumably a nice exampe of the existence of imperceptible forces and metaphor for the possibility of x-ray vision was enjoyable in and of itself but pointless as an addendum to the film - but I digress). But that kind of slow, lumbering movement as an ancient genre behemoth starts to shed the barnacles. I suppose all it really is is good writing - but in a film so decidedly commercial, that feels innovatory.
Of course, whoever had the radical idea to make the film intelligent (not by a thousand miles intellectual) was shouted down midway through production. At one point, standing in a tunnel, the characters ask "what's that sound?". Now not only does the audience know that the large monster has been shedding little monsters, little monsters that can crawl through tunnels, but so too do the characters. Perhaps they are congenitally stupid? Perhaps their Manhattan champaign and coke lifestyles have rotted their main cortexes?
Whatever the answer the dullards have significant difficulty adding two and two, and certainly don't reach fucking four - instead they turn the camera onto night-vision, see the monsters, and finally, finally decide to run. Perhaps this piece of laboured long-winded direction is supposed to create tension? I don't know. Anyone in the audience who didn't see the surprise coming must have been too busy messing with the genitals of the person in the seat next to them.
It annoys me. The movie wavers violently between treating the audience like grown-ups (grown-ups who like to see fuck-off monsters), and suiting them up in padded clothing and sending them off to special school. It could be worse. But if someone had shot whichever producer decided that people with brains can't watch monsters, it would have been great.