Cloverfield movie review: A Manhattan farewell party for Robert (Michael Stahl-David), who is heading for a job in Japan is interrupted by a shattering noise and rumblings like an earthquake. Hud (T.J. Miller) is in the process of filming the party on his digital and continues to shoot what he sees of the ever increasing pandemonium as a strange, giant creature begins to destroy Manhattan, spreading vicious little aliens who attack to kill. Robert and Hud, with a small group from the party, try to evade the chaos and destruction.
Cloverfield has most things I deplore about movies and a couple of things I admire. The things I admire are that it's unique and the special effects are first class. But they'd have to be, because everything else about the visual aspect is anti-cinematic. The film's conceit is that the entire movie is actually a home video filmed by one of the characters, Hud (T.J. Miller) who is charged at first with documenting a farewell party for Robert (Michael Stahl-David). Poor fool Hud can't even frame the camera properly, mostly shooting the throats of people. This over-statement (of understated filmmaking, ironically enough) is one of the things I deplore about the movie.
Some of the other things I deplore are the terrible dialogue, much of which consists of screams like 'Bob! Bob! Don't! Bob!' or 'Move it! Go! Go!' And of course the chaotic footage. The first 10 minutes of the film are incredibly boring, as we are flooded with meaningless party noise and crappy shots of people's throats. When the first explosion crashes into the storyline, there is a brief moment of genuine cinematic tension, but we're soon back to home video visuals that no grown man could possibly be stupid enough to have shot.
That first 'attack' gives the impression that some sort of firepower is involved as rocket-like balls of fire shoot out of firework-like explosions. We soon discover that it's an alien life form causing the destruction, and those rockets were ... who knows? The scenes of catastrophe in Manhattan are superbly created, equalling anything in recent disaster movies.
But I wonder why during an evacuation, the US Army would bundle one healthy female into a helicopter and leave three of her friends behind, considering one of them is a seriously wounded girl. Once you start asking these sorts of questions, you know you are not fully engaged with the awesome, cool and wicked stuff on screen. So I readily admit that the film is aimed below my age range and is most likely an excellent entertainment for sci fi fans under 30. It does do what it set out to do and doggedley sticks to its game plan.
Box Office: Cloverfield opened in 3,411 theaters on January 18, 2008, and grossed a total of $16,930,000 on its opening day in the United States and Canada. It made $40,058,229 on its opening weekend, making it the most successful January release to date. Worldwide, it has grossed $170,602,318, making it the first movie in 2008 to gross over $100 million.