spoiler-free review of cloverfield

I saw Cloverfield tonight.

Initial impressions: The movie delivers as experience, but is problematic as story… not much attention paid to character arcs, plausibility, or honoring the contract with the audience.

Some may argue that the device (telling the story entirely through continuous footage of a single videotape) limits the story-telling possibilities. I don’t agree — I think much more could have been done to put a meaningful narrative in relief.

If I was supposed to sympathize with Rob, the main character, I don’t think the film succeeded. Empathy, yes; sympathy, not so much.

Cloverfield is masterful in its evocation of horror, and cathartic. It is violent, loud, and unrelenting. Out-Speilbergs Speilberg in setting up a familiar world that horror lunges in to upset. Clever in several ways, wise in almost none. Will generate lots of DVD sales… so people can pause to look for visual clues/information. There are a couple of things I just noticed in re-watching the trailer that put things in a different light. Definitely setting up for some kind of sequel.

The shaky camera wasn’t as nauseating for me as in United 93 or The Blair Witch Project. (But I was way too close to the screen for both of those movies).

Coming out of the theater, my primary question is: does this film bear any meaning? Do we learn anything new in this NYC post-9/11 film? Not at all sure about that. The narrative is pretty much devoid of spiritual theme / vertical dimension / transcendence. There’s a love story (sort of), and some humane concern for others, but nothing profound.

Don’t expect Lost. Expect Blair Witch Project with a budget and special effects, or a more humane version of War of the Worlds.

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