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Cloverfield: An American Kaiju

01.23.2008 @ 10:49 AM in Technology
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  • Disclaimer: This post contains a few plot details regarding "Cloverfield," the monster, and a few conspiracies about it. Continue on at your own risk. If you have already seen the movie, hit the jump.
Cloverfield is an awesome movie, granted a bit gimmicky and filled with blatant 9/11 backlashes and iconic disaster shots (read: Statue of Liberty decapitated. Empire State building destroyed), but essentially a success in what it was trying to achieve. kaiju.jpg Cloverfield is a American Kaiju film. Kaiju is Japanese for "strange beast," and can best describe the Godzilla movies and even the baddies from the original Power Rangers series. However, Godzilla is Japanese, and plays on their culture; it feels cheesy to us. When Godzilla was remade in 2001, it was a mess. I remember going to the theater for it and thinking it was cute and easy to grasp, not what would expect to feel after such a film. The film bombed, and the sequel was canned(you see an egg hatch at the end, supposedly paving way for a Son of Zilla that thank god never happened). We learned that another giant Japanese destructo monster movie just won't cut it in the US. JJ Abrams, producer of that "Lost" series you probably never heard of, knew this and spent years planning the next attack. With the help of viral sites and ambigious trailers, Cloverfield immediately gained a mysterious appeal. What was it? A monster? Aliens? Voltron? Nobody knew, and the details were magnificently leaked to build up a anticipation that gave the movie the best January open ever in 11 years. The weekend over, some blogs are shouting conspiracy and the inappropriate use of 9/11 and "why Manhattan?" After taking Angel and Eli and his partner Mike to the show, they spent the whole car ride home picking it apart and calling it the worst movie ever, and a waste of money and a giant 9/11 scare flick. I think I need new friends, but whatever. Cloverfield, as much as unofficially was never meant to bring back the past, did mean to stir up the stir up enough feeling to set the mood. Why Manhattan? Why not? I've never been to NYC, but the area is so well known, I doubt watching a building in Chicago pummel to the ground would catch you as much as watching the Empire fall. Its the perfect mini setting for a Kaiju, In Japan its always Tokyo. Where best can a monster stir up shit than the busiest city? 9/11 Conspiracy - Absolutely. Sort of. When the firsts shakes are heard the party flocks to the roof, you hear chatter of "is it terrorists?," and "its happening all over again!" Of course! Set off an explosion in the city and listen for comments. September 11th was so tragic and impounding on so many lives that it's natural to think it again. The audience was stirred, and that was the point. When the first building fell, Angel whispered to me, "this looks just like how it happened." He was there, and the movie brought it back for him. Is that wrong? I dunno, but if you watch the movie, its not about terrorists bombing us, its about a freakishly large beast that you never get a good look at that is destroying everything around you. It is terrorism, just on a different level. Statue of Liberty, come on! - That was fucking awesome and a just accept-it gimmick part of the movie. Its never explained why or how the monster decided to knock her coppertop off, but it was symbolism for "we are in crisis." The brooklyn bridge? Same thing, when the landmarks that we hold dear are cut away from us you start to realize the fragility of your surroundings. Why in every monster movie do they have to knock everything down? - Cloverfield was never meant to be original in idea. JJ Abrams wanted to make "our Godzilla," a monster for the US. Like I said, Cloverfield is an American Kaiju. Total destruction is a must, and it gives the Special FX guys woodies. Total Blair-Witch Knockoff - The big gimmick of the whole movie is that you are watching the events that were retrieved from an SD card found in Central Park. The film was made to look like it was filmed on a handy cam operated by the character "Hud." In reality, the camera was a Sony CineAlta HD F23 camera, a top of the line 1080p camera that was creatively controlled by master cinematographer and "Lost" vet Michael Bonvillian. One flaw that only those in the nerd will know is that an SD card would never allow the flip-back to previous recorded video (a tape would), so flashbacks of Rob's date with Beth on Coney island were inconsistent with the gimmick. Of course, the battery life and clever filming outages made little sense, but do you really wanna watch the whole walk down the subway line in the dark? I don't think Hud could be that amusing to carry the movie that long. cinaltaf23.jpg Not all of Cloverfield needs to be defended for those quick to cry foul. Abrams made the right decision to employ the "killer lice." The creatures that fell from the beast were frightening and "equally terrible," however easily killable so as not to dominate the threat. Another point I liked was how we never got the best look at the monster, there was no super FX orgasm money shot. In the end, when our much loved and quite handsome "Hud" was killed you see the monster's face close up, however the shot was so tight that you never see it all, just the billowing of its airsacs/gills/noclue and its black eyes on a head that looks nothing like any monster we've ever encountered in a movie. Not everyone is going to like Cloverfield because not everyone likes Kaiju. Just remember what you are watching and how it was tailored for your dismerriment before you freak out and call it a wash.
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