It should be obvious what "movie" I saw just before writing this entry. Frankly, if you don't know what this post is about--navigate away. Now. Especially since there be spoilers here!
So, as anyone with a brain knows by now, I saw Cloverfield tonight. Maybe I should replace "saw" with "sat through", because most of my time in the theater was spent turning to my wife to share a mutual, muted "guffaw!"
Now don't get me wrong. I know the "monster movie" genre. I know it takes our generational, cultural fears and amps them up; it makes them tangible and turns them loose on an unsuspecting populace. Like, the population of Manhattan! A city that has clearly never known a catastrophe that resulted in shattered buildings and shattered lives. Apparently, because NYC hasn't been a real-life victim of a plague of locusts or a tsunami, it's ripe for alien conquest. Dammit, Mr. Reeves--didn't you see Independence Day?!
But you wouldn't know who "Mr. Reeves" is, because the marketing department is so busy plastering J.J. Abrams' name all over the project that you'd think he directed it.
But that's all besides the point. You're probably wondering why I think this movie could suck liquid out of a camel's ass. Unpleasant image, I know. But here you go. Oh, Cloverfield. How do you suck? Let me count the ways...
I think the title of the post explains a bit. Who the fuck are these people being shot by handicam? And why the should I care about them? To answer those questions in order is to say "I dunno" and "I don't". The first 30 minutes of the picture is about "establishing" character--but it does nothing of the sort. All it does is set up the fact that you'll be watching a movie through the lens of a remarkably inept amateur cameraman named "Hud". Oh! How witty! Hud!!!!! Like the acronym for "Heads Up Display", or what you see through a cockpit or a range-finder or *GASP* what any first-person shooter uses as a visual to simulate an interface!!! More on that later...
The fact of the matter is, you MUST buy into the central conceit of this film to have a marginal chance of enjoying it. And the conceit, to put it in terms that are simple, is this: some asshole named Hud, realizing that there's a major catastrophe of biblical proportions afflicting Manhattan, decides to film it instead of survive it. Does he film the monster's rampage through the City? Does he film the military response to it? Of course not! With all the journalistic acumen of The Penny Saver--and all the self-absorption you'd expect from a card-carrying member of the "Me" Generation, I might add--he decides to document his friends' desperate attempt to flee Manhattan.
Huh? You're kidding, right? Some twenty-something Manhattanite who spends the first act of the film worried about who "had sex together" (yes, they actually use that phrase) with who is concerned about films for posterity? Billy and Sarah "had sex together! Can you believe it!?!?!" How the FUCK do you have sex apart?!?! Who talks like that? But there Hud is, walking around Rob's going-away party, telling every guest he can find about who Rob "had sex together" with. Oh, I totally buy his altruism. No, really, I do. Even though I've never taught a single teenager who used the phrase "had sex together", I can totally believe a twenty-something would use it. Really, I can. Character development=nonexistent.
But who bothers with such minutiae as "character development" anymore, right? This movie's all about blowing the shit out of Manhattan! So let's do that! But wait! Let's have our intrepid cameraman NOT FILM IT. Nay, he's more interested in making snide comments and filming his friends climb over debris than actually FILMING the attack. There's a great scene where the group is on a rooftop and fucknut Hud films Rob and some girls scrambling over some rocks...while the EBE (that's Extraterrestrial Biological Entity for you non-X-Files fans) is destroying the City and being bombed to shit by the USAF. Hmm. Which of my astute readers can tell me what makes for more compelling viewing?
Not to mention...
Hey kids. If it were you--if the End were near, and it was time to cash in the chips...wouldn't you PUT. THE. FUCKING. CAMERA. DOWN? Seriously. Wouldn't you? Wouldn't you be more concerned with surviving than "documenting"? Especially if all you were going to document was your friends jumping over rocks? Ironically, the only effective shots in this film are the ones when someone...wait for it...puts the camera down. There's about 3. Don't blink. You might miss them.
And why is their camera the ONLY camera in Manhattan? Every fuck and his mother has a camera phone or a camcorder or a Blackberry or a...you get the idea. How is this the footage that came out of the city? Oh, I know! because their camera CANNOT BE DESTROYED BY CONVENTIONAL MEANS!! I know this because it survives a helicopter crash, an attack by an extraordinarily hostile EBE and a bombing run on a bridge. Seriously, it does! Apparently, they invested in the "Force-Field" Warranty from Best Buy. I gotta get me one on my iPod.
My wife could give you a whole dissertation about their travel methods through Manhattan, as she once lived and worked there, but that's a bit beyond my scope. The film gets big points for an attempt to re-invent the "Monster Movie" for the YouTube Generation, and it has a wonderful sense of immediacy through the lack of music and strict adherence to handheld as a mode of shooting...but here's the thing:
If I were a member of the YouTube/Film it Myself/Time Magazine "You: Person of the Year" Generation, and this if how people thought of me--as a brain-dead fucking mook willing to swallow anything and everything as "Wow! They blew up the City!" Entertainment--I'd be insulted.
And I hope you are too.