It's well late in the game, but here is a "Cloverfield" review...I saw the film about two months ago, and have been sitting on my ammo ever since....
Remember "Name That Tune"? The game show where the contestants challenged one another to name a song in the fewest possible notes? You remember..."I can name that tune in 3 notes!" "Ah, but I can name that tune in 2!"
Watching "Cloverfield" is like sitting through an extended episode of Cinematic Name That Tune. The film's aim is to elicit an empty emotional reaction out of innocent mainstream filmgoers in as few notes as it can muster. "I can impress you with 3 notes of suspense!" "I can make you cry with 2 notes of character development!"
Considering the film's $46.1 million opening weekend, the audience took the bait; judging by the film's subsequent colossal box office dip in the weeks since that opening, the audience then vomitted the shit up.
I don't know JJ Abrams, but he and I have a love-hate relationship. I loved "Alias." It was an ingenious concept and it brought a strong female to the forefront of a popular, slick, smart, involving television series. On the other hand, I can't drink the kool-aid on "Lost," which is yet another intriguing concept, only this time the enterprise is so fixated on said concept that I can't penetrate the show's arrogance layer to get into its story and characters.
I always said "Lost" reminded me of a movie that they stretched into a tedious, five-season TV watching bonanza, but on the basis of "Cloverfield," I take that back. If "Lost" was a standalone feature rather than a series, it would look vaguely like "Cloverfield": short, slick, and terminally empty in terms of story and character. And for those who were wondering, YES, that is about as close to a compliment as "Lost" will ever get from me. Go figure.
Back to the subject at hand...a lot of people seem to express disappointment that we never get a good glimpse of the monster at the center of "Cloverfield." I don't particularly understand that viewpoint, since the damn thing practically stares the audience in the face for the last 10 minutes of the film. I do, however, take issue with the fact that the monster looks like shit, as do all the film's special effects. It seems like Abrams and Co. spent the bulk of their money on high-end HD equipment and pristine 35mm prints rather than decent F/X...another questionable choice since the film is supposed to be from the POV of a shitty mini-DV camcorder. Honestly, "Cloverfield" looks so polished that it's as if the innocent victims of this horrible attack stepped out of NYU film school and into the story.
So where does "Cloverfield" stand in the JJ Abrams oeuvre? Well, it's certainly better than the Abrams-directed "Mission: Impossible 3," so we can thank him for at least not directing this one. And we can also be thankful that Abrams' "Star Trek" won't be released for over a year. For now, though, let's bask in the fact that "Cloverfield"-mania has died down, and hope that heroes like "Speed Racer," "Iron Man," and of course "Indiana Jones" can redeem the big-studio film from this vapid, self-important hole in the coming months.
Okay, "Lost"-lovers, unleash your wrath upon me...