Friday, January 18, 2008

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: A Review of the Cloverfield Trailer

wI have never been a big fan of monster movies--Dracula, Frankenstein, King Kong, Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Mothman, Godzilla vs. Rosie O'Donnell, etc. I've only seen two "monster" movies: Peter Jackson's King Kong and the execrable '90's remake of Godzilla. One assumes that underlying the popularity of Kong, Godzilla, and et al is the vicarious visceral pleasure of wanton destruction on a large scale. The absurd powers of these mutants, their huge size, taps into some subconscious will to power manifested as a leviathan at war with civilization. Or it could be that fifty-story tall radioactive monsters are really cool if you're a male under the age of 16.

Whichever it is, the trailer for the new monster movie Cloverfield promises something slightly different: Godzilla crossed with The Blair Witch Project. The premise: An unseen monster destroying New York City was caught on tape and we are about to be treated to the recently discovered footage.

The fundamental selling point of the movie is "What is the monster?" The trailer fails because it chooses to focus on how the protagonists deal with the monster rather than on the monster itself. We do see a massive military attack on the monster, but no shot of the monster. We do receive several images of destruction, culminating in the head of the Statue of Liberty landing right in front of the camera. All this is intercut with our main characters in situations not directly related to the monster. Shots of a makeshift hospital. Some guy crying about his girlfriend dying. All fine and good, but it distracts from the fundamental premise: A huge creature is destroying New York City. A solider admits he has no clue what it is, "but it's winning." Am I shown anything indicating that it's winning or demonstrating the consequences thereof? No. I have no incentive to see the army win, since I have no connection to the monster. We only see effects of the attack, never the cause, not even a fleeting glance. By not focusing on the monster more, the net result is apathy.

Impression: Meh. (i.e. C)

Update: Compare this to the far superior trailer for Godzilla (1998). The movie sucked but the trailer works really well:

Have you seen Cloverfield? I welcome your critique of my review in the comments section below.


paulthezag said...

oh for shame, John. You put so little faith in the power of JJ Abrams. Suffice it to say that I have rarely been as scared or enthralled as I was at Cloverfield. I'll make it a point to write a review soon. At least now I don't need to embed the trailer.

Kakashi said...

I haven't seen Lost. However the trailer for the new Star Trek looks good....