Thursday, 10 April 2008

Cloverfield: American monster?

It's been a fair while since the film was released, so reviewing it will be fairly fruitless, but I thought I might discuss the monster itself while the urge takes me. J.J. Abrams, the man behind the project has stated that he created the project after seeing Godzilla and King Kong toys in Japan, and he wanted America to have a monster to call it's own. I figured I'd discuss whether he achieved that or not - to be honest I'm still not decided, but I'll keep hitting those keys and see if a conclusion comes out.

It's a cracking monster that's to be sure, freaky, scary and unpredictable, hitting all the right spots to get your heart pumping as the film moves on. It's big enough and powerful enough to take a beating from man's arsenal and fight back as it rampages through New York City. It's got a big body that can tower over buildings and a heck of a scary face that comes at ya from nowhere. So yeah, it definitely works as a monster.

It's original too. While borrowing many story elements from earlier monsters, we've all seen the buildings smashed and the bullets bouncing off, it as a creature and a dynamic is quite new and refreshing. It has a refreshingly new shape to it, rather than an overgrown monkey or dinosaur it is a long, sniewy mass, trailing limbs awkwardly (see preproduction sketch below.) While not modelling any creature, it has a distinctly biological feel to it, it looks like a creature, not a mutant or an alien (though I guess those are still possibilities) but a very believable animal that just happens to be huge and scary. There's a moment when you look into it's face and you see a curious almost cautious look, not the semi-intelligent sympathy of King Kong, but more like a dog analysing something.

There are also parasites, falling from it that are deadly to humans. I thought this was a clever device to bring the fight to the people but not in an unrealistic way 'cause there's no way a group of partygoers could do anything against something that big, and since they haven't chucked any expert scientists into the mix all they can do is run, which they wisely do a lot of. But the monster carries more than just a poweful body creatures latching onto it fall to the city and attack humans with deadly effect - again original so you don't have to spend half the film watching helicopters and tanks to get in on the action.

So yeah, Cloverfield is an all new and great creature, but is it America's monster - I'm still unconvinced. Part of the film's genius is it only shows you what's recorded on the camera by the group of friends so realistically detailed images of the creature are used sparingly. While this works well as a film dynamic, I think it's actually detrimental to stamping Cloverfield as a monster for America. While Cloverfield may be more believable than previous films, the dramatic and thematic nature of those creatures, though simplistic at times is what stamps them on the minds of the viewers. Cloverfield is barely seen at all and it's a tough job to get decent images of the beastie even some time after the film's release - is we can't remember what it looks like how are Americans supposed to identify it as "their monster?" Since a sequel is likely we may get to know the creature more - I hope they will because while the film will be remembered for some time, the monster is actually easier to forget, despite it's awesomeness.

I guess the DVD will give us more images of the beast and that may help, along with the figure coming out later this year. But more will have to be done to cement this remarkable creature in our minds for the years to come.

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