Review: Cloverfield

Published 6 years ago by , Updated February 9th, 2012 at 9:54 pm,

By Vic Holtreman

Short version: Yes, it lives up to the hype – Cloverfield is a blast.

cloverfield movie Review: CloverfieldWhere does one start a review of a movie that has been the subject of so much attention and hype for months on end leading up to its release?

Bigger than the speculation about what the monster in the movie would look like, the hunting for clues on viral websites, what “Slusho” has to do with the movie – has been the question: After all the hype, will it be a great movie or a huge letdown?

Well I’m sorry to disappoint all the naysayers, but Cloverfield rocked.

Will it win an Oscar or Golden Globe? Heck no. Was it fun and exciting to sit through? Hell yes. This is what the ridiculously weak American version of Godzilla that came out a few years ago should have been.

The following review will be free of any major spoilers – to the point where I won’t even say whether the images that have been making the rounds lately are accurate portrayals of the monster or not. icon smile Review: Cloverfield


Cloverfield opens with a color bar pattern on the screen (which did elicit some unintentional laughs from the audience), but after a few seconds cuts to a very official and government-looking title stating:

“Multiple sightings of case designate ‘Cloverfield’ camera retrieved at incident site U.S. 447 previously known as “Central Park”

Yes, this was shown in the trailer, but as the movie is just starting it impresses upon you that this is not going to end well.

When it cuts from there to a hand held digital camera’s eye view of the interior of a very nice high rise apartment in New York City, it’s quite surprising (and I thought, did not make sense). Here we meet beauty Beth (Odette Yustman) and the guy behind the camera who we presume to be her boyfriend, Rob. Rob (played by Michael Stahl-David) is the fellow for whom the going away party is being thrown due to a new job as vice-president of some company in Japan.

From there it seems that whoever is in charge of the camcorder likes to pretty much record anything and everything as it follows people walking down the streets of New York City and into Rob’s apartment which is being prepared for a surprise going away party for him. We meet Rob’s brother Jason (Mike Vogel), who has been tasked by his girlfriend Lilly (Jessica Lucas) with recording “testimonials” from all the guests at the party. Jason is not pleased and manages to hand off the job to Rob’s best friend Hud, who at first grudgingly takes up the task. Eventually Hud starts to enjoy it as the night goes on and he gets a bit drunk while faithfully filming everything that’s going on.

We also meet a young woman named Marlena (played by Lizzy Kaplan), who Hud has his eye on but can’t seem to work up the courage (or charm) to talk to properly. By this time the audience is finally getting absorbed into the whole camcorder point of view thing, but it does take a while. The official government opening of the film doesn’t quite jive with all this preliminary material, but eventually it does get to the point where Hud wants to keep recording because “someone should see this.”

As we all know already, it’s during this party that all hell breaks loose and when it happens it’s extremely effective. I found myself thinking of Asian horror films, where up until the stuff hits the fan they can be incredibly mundane and almost boring, which then makes for a much more jarring effect when things veer off into the bizarre.

There’s a lot of humor in the film, mostly provided by cameraman Hud (played by unknown T.J. Miller who is not seen a lot but whose presence is constantly felt). One thing I found funny in particular was moments after the initial attack, when the head from the Statue of Liberty ends up in the middle of a Manhattan street, while some people are screaming and yelling “Oh My God!” a bunch of folks gather around the head in the middle of the chaos to calmly take pictures of it with their cell phones and digital cameras.

I didn’t expect the film to be funny at all, but the humor was sprinkled throughout the film very effectively, at time relieving the tension of what was happening on screen. Cloverfield also has a much larger scale than I expected considering the hand-held premise, showing citywide vistas and long shots of the creature. On the flip side, if you absolutely HATE the “jumpy camera” film style I have to say this film is not for you. Well, maybe if you sit in the very last row.

Now when I say “larger scale,” don’t go in expecting some mega-production… Although the effects are, well, effective, it’s more of an intimate film where we get to know the five friends and experience what happens through their eyes in real time.

Yes, 9/11 did come to mind and yes, it did make me a bit uneasy. But what I liked was that in a way it was almost cathartic (just stay with me here): As the people on the street that day didn’t know exactly what was going on despite the fact they were witnessing it first hand, the characters in the film (and the audience) experience similar confusion in the face of disaster of a different sort here.

Regarding the viral marketing of this film: In the end, it fits the final product perfectly. It really is a small film about a small group of friends with the occasional “big” scene here and there.

The creature is very cool and had kind of an H.P. Lovecraft look about it, and it delivers a few surprises. The characters were believable and well acted for this sort of film and that was extremely important, because if you didn’t care about them you had nothing (cough, AVP-R, cough).

So for all you movie reviewer haters out there that think I don’t cut sci-fi movies (AVP-R) or TV shows (The Sarah Connor Chronicles) enough slack, Cloverfield exemplifies what a Screen Rant review is all about: In the end does the movie entertain the audience without insulting their intelligence?

If the answer is yes, it gets a great review from me.

Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5
(Must-See)

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TAGS: 4 star movies, cloverfield

189 Comments

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  1. Be funny to see JJ Abhrams indorse a handheld Digital camera in the coming days.
    ^
    Also JJ did say in an interview that some people might want to take “Dramamine” before the movie. :)

  2. One thing I’m thinking Jim is that if the millitary did classify this event they must have killed the creature or at least drove it to retreat. ??

  3. Well the REAL reason for the name is that was the name of the shell company set up to produce the film so people wouldn’t know it was a Paramount film. They started calling it that and it just stuck.

    As far as within the movie, the military gives code names to all sorts of operations.

    Vic

  4. Heck after seeing that camera get dropped repeatedly, chewed up, survive a helicopter crash and getting buried in a stone bridge collapse, I was thinking “Where does one get one of these durable cameras?”

    And Jim, a certain percentage of people are simply more prone to motion sickness than others. Mythbusters had an episode where they tried various old-wives cures for it, but only Adam was susceptible to it – so he had to endure all the tests.

    I myself didn’t get sick, but there were several people in my showing who had to get up and leave, presumably for that reason. They all sat closer to the screen than I did.

  5. Here’s a link to an interview with Matt Reeves that has information on the meaning of Cloverfield and he also talks about the actors improvising a lot of the movie:

    http://tinyurl.com/2oe2gp

    I don’t know why the haters really, really uberhate this movie. Did it give you diarrhea, hemorrhoids, the flu? lol, jk

    I think the closer you are to the screen, the more likely you are to have that feeling of motion sickness. However, I was around the middle of the auditorium and didn’t feel nauseous.

  6. Let’s see. The pictures are from the party, aftermath, and the oil tanker I’d like to believe Clover (The monster) destroyed. The Oil tanker is from a company called Tagruato, they also created Slusho!. The main ingrediant in Slusho! Is deep see nector (DNS) There is another site jamielovesteddy.com password jllovesth. Home girl gets ahold of some of the DNS and has a episode. Anyway, there is another organization T.I.D.O wave.(Tagruato Is Destroying our Oceans)

    They are like a radical eviomentalist group who is trying to bring down Tagruato. If you go to tidowave.com you will see that the “government” has taken the site down because they believe TIDOwave is responsible for the destruction of the oil tanker. If you go to Youtube. Paramount even went as far as making fake news reports from around 8 different countries reporting in on the destruction of the oil rige and death of some of the people on board.

    What is also weird is that if you go to tagruato.com They site has been shut down.

    Sorry if this doesn’t make alot of sense, trying to bring it out alittle at a time.

    unFiction.com is running smoother, if you want to go there to read up, go for it.

    cloverfieldclues.blogspot.com is a amazing place that one of our one unfictioners has created to help people who are not in the ARG too. I’d go there first to get a not so fast catch up.

    Sorry for the long post. I personally love the world within the world strategy that JJ did for this movie. I guess this is why I felt so compelled about this movie cause it feels like I know these people

    Oh yea, the main characters have myspaces too lol.

  7. Good info Zachary,

    I sure hope JJ Abhrams works as hard on Star Trek.
    :)

    Looks like Cloverfield will break 50 mil by tomarrow.
    Only cost 25 mil to make.

    A first weekend double your money film. That’s got to be a record…

  8. I think JJ will. I honestly think hes one director who puts his mind body and soul into something he does. And I’m sure he will put the same into Trek.

  9. In the movie (and trailer) an explosion illuminates skyscrapers and sends all sorts of frag flying out–apparently from near or within the city blocks. Then, after Rob & friends run down to the street, Miss Liberty’s head comes down.

    Does it make sense for the creature to be taking swipes at buildings, THEN at Liberty Island? Or–not knowing the geography OR scale–could it have been doing both at about the same time? (Unless the explosion was military-caused–but we hear no jet sounds.)

  10. The explosion is probably from the oil tanker that was seen on TV moments before.

    heath

  11. I think this film got a few logistical things inccorect.
    ^
    I’m betting the Liberty Head was more of a symbolic plot device.
    ^

  12. Hey, the monster could have thrown the tanker into the city from the water, followed by the swipe at the statue.

    All part of the fun of not knowing for sure ;)

  13. Jersey, that’s an awesome scenario. An oil tanker’s impact would explain the magnitude of the illumination.

    I think the story itself is seamless. Just because there are gaps in the puzzle doesn’t mean we can’t find some pieces. Yeah, mystery is fun, and asking is fun, but I like it when the fog lifts and reveals more!

  14. The tanker wouldn’t have to explode in the city to do damage. It could have exploded in the harbor and the resulting shrapnel could have caused secondary damage to the buildings. Frankly, I don’t recall seeing a building as being the main source of the first explosion. Besides…ol’ Clover may have been carrying the head around looking for someone to play catch with.

    BTW…I saw something that someone else (wish I could remember who so as to give proper credit) had written with regard to a possible sequel. The person said that the film would be from the monster’s pov and be called:

    Cloverfield 2: I Just Want a Grilled Cheese Sandwich!

    LMAO..

  15. Rene, LMAO reading your post.!
    ^
    Here’s my updated explanation reguarding the Liberty head and building explosion see what ya think gang.?

    ^

    ^

    ^

    ^
    Spoliers,,, yikes Scoooby…..there’s spoliers.
    ^

    ^im warning ya,,yayayaayaa

    ^ :(

    ^

    Clover, only capsized the tanker from what we saw of the tv reports.

    I think Clover threw the head at the building it caused the explosion and the head was propelled to Robs street like a piece of shrapnel.
    ^
    Did I spell that right?

  16. I can see a spin off show CSI Cloverfield in the works… :)

  17. Steve, The original trailer, and movie, shows the initial huge explosion while they’re on the roof. It’s what makes them hurry down the stairs. The head crashes when they’re on the street. That’s too long a lag for the head being blown from that first blast–whether it came from the oil rig or not.

    Rene, you may be right–the monster may have been holding on to it.

    How do they outdo the Statue of Liberty scene?
    Mt. Rushmore!
    Cloverfield 2: Heads are Gonna Roll

  18. Yeah but Jim this is what happened.
    Spoilers….

    ^

    ^

    ^

    Clover breaks head off Statue of Liberty and propells it into the building.
    This results in a massive explosion that propells the head of liberty way down to Robs apt.
    ^
    Any questions ?

  19. Forget the tanker Jim there is no Lagtime there.
    ^
    Clover throws the head it causes the explosion and in the blast its propelled down in front of Robs. If you see the film again you will see that the timelag is very short.
    ^
    Very believable.

  20. “How do they outdo the Statue of Liberty scene?
    Mt. Rushmore!
    Cloverfield 2: Heads are Gonna Roll”

    Haaaahahaha…hilarious!

    Now, the head-throwing scenario does seem plausible. Good thinking.

  21. Rene, IMO the creature clearly thought the Statue of Liberty was a adversary. Therefore attacking it and swiping off its head was a defensive measure.
    ^

  22. This movie was incredible, and every single aspect of it was done perfect

    The only thing, the ONLY thing that people can complain about is the shaky Camera…but that was the point of the film anyways, so even that is not right.

    I see alot of ignorants complaining about stupid things like one of the comments above says the camera should of focused just on the monster? What?! That’s retarded. I think that person missed the first half of the movie and didnt realize one of the characters was actually the dude holding a camcorder.

    anyway, good review

    i give this 9/10

  23. Well…everyone’s entitled to their opinions. I just think that some people are so used to traditionally-shot movies that it takes time to get accustomed to something like this.

    The thing that gets me the most is that this is supposed to be footage of one person’s take on the event. How credible would it have been had the military found a tape in the rubble only to play it and see perfectly shot footage with panoramic views and such?

  24. To be honest, I sat right in the front about 3 rows up from the bottom and didn’t feel sick or anything. Made it better I think, really when Clover was looking right down on HUD. Looked like he was looking down on me too. Intense!

  25. Alright guys! I just saw it again and it was even more friggin’ awesome!

    SPOILER WARNING!!!
    ^
    ^
    ^
    ^
    ^
    ^
    ^
    ^
    ^
    ^
    I believe that the ship may have simply capsized due to anything: that first quake felt while Jason, Rob and Hud are on the balcony or the monster could have sunk it as well. That monster is huge and I mean HUGE! It’s arms had to be around 500 feet or 50 stories long. I think it could definitely multi-task: capsize a ship, rip off the head of Liberty, then cause that first explosion the characters witness from the roof of their building. During the scene on the Brooklyn Bridge, Jason is definitely smothered by the monster’s tail, but we don’t see the rest of the monster’s body. The tail could definitely be about the same length of the beast’s arms. Also, Jason is wearing a Slusho! shirt. What exactly is the relationship between this movie and Slusho? I’m a bit lost on that clue. Also, the helicopter definitely crashed in Central Park. The view of the buildings isn’t Battery Park. There aren’t any grassy fields in Battery Park and there are several in Central Park. I think they may have crash landed in The Great Lawn. The helicopters took off from 40th and Park. That’s very near Central Park, so it’s definitely possible that they crashed there.

    This movie is just amazing. The realism still affected me the second time around. I already knew what was going to happen, but the anticipation killed me! Mad props to JJ and Matt. Unbelievable! All the haters out there seem to only have one complaint: the shaky camera. If that’s the case, why did you see this movie? Everyone knew Cloverfield was filmed almost entirely by hand held cameras. If that’s the only complaint I hear from anyone, then this movie did a damn good job.

    Whew! Bring on the sequel!

    Haha, and I’ll try to not say ‘definitely’ so much in my next post =)

  26. One more thing:

    SPOILER
    ^
    ^
    ^
    ^
    ^
    ^
    ^
    ^
    ^
    ^
    Marlena exploded in that tent. I paid close attention the second time around and you see the outline of her midsection expand like a balloon and then BURST! I didn’t see anything come out of her, so maybe that’s just the effect of the critters biting you. You just, explode! And the final scene where an object falls into the water tripped me out this time. I didn’t realize how small the object was. Either that or it was way in the distance. Any ideas?

    More mad props to JJ and Matt because people are going to be talking about this movie for a while. All the speculation is so interesting! The crowds will demand a sequel!

  27. Morgan, did you see the monster scratching its back on a building–apparently in one of the newscasts?

    http://goneelsewhere.wordpress.com/2008/01/10/everything-you-wanted-to-know-about-cloverfield-but-were-afraid-to-ask/

    “Another facet of the design was added at director Reeves’ suggestion. “I wanted him to have that sort of spooked feeling, the way, when a horse is spooked, you can see the white of its eyes along the bottom. And you see that when the military is firing on him, where he becomes completely agitated and confused.”

    [The article describes the monster as a baby.]

    As part of a “post-birth ritual,” as Abrams describes it, the monster is seen early on scratching his back on a building (destroying it in the process), to remove a layer of parasites that are set loose to wreak their own havoc on the city.”

  28. Morgan that seems to be the 46 million dollar question. What was that ufo that we see at the end??
    :|

  29. Morgan, excellent catches. You’ll help me know a few more things to look for.

    I bet there will be a LOT of repeat viewings. No doubt the DVD sales will be through the roof.

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