Every few years Hollywood feels a compulsive need to blow up New York. Blasting the head off the Statue of Liberty, reducing the Brooklyn Bridge to rubble and turning Midtown into a moonscape is all done, of course, in good fun.
Whether one finds "Cloverfield" fun, however, may depend on one's susceptibility to cerebral hemorrhage. The conceit in this Drew Goddard-scripted, Matt Reeves-directed and J.J. ("Lost") Abrams-produced thriller is that the entire attack on and destruction of the city is seen through the viewfinder of a Manhattan partygoer's video camera.
The lumbering-yet-slithering 90-foot tadpole stomping around America's most valuable real estate is a pretty great effect. Our hero, as such, is Rob (Michael Stahl-David), who's being given a going-away party before his new job in Japan starts. Apparently miffed about not having been invited to the soiree, the monster starts lobbing bombs around Lower Manhattan.
Having become, by default, the party's camera guy, the thick-witted Hud (T.J. Miller) ranks among the greatest war photographers in history. At no time -- not in the darkest subway tunnels of New York, not in an out-of-control helicopter -- does he fail to keep an image on the screen.
"Cloverfield" may be a product that can be most comfortably viewed on the smallest screen. If people are going to watch movies on an iPhone, the reasoning may go, give them movies that look as if they were shot on an iPhone. Projected on a building-size screen, "Cloverfield" is a relentless, I-thought-my-eyeballs-were-bleeding exercise in visual disorientation.
So what does "Cloverfield" offer?
Bad taste? Dialogue that consists largely of OH MY GOD!!? The anti-cinematic aesthetic that is coming to govern our visual lives? All of the above, plus another slimy monster, engaged in an extreme makeover of Manhattan.
-- John Anderson (Jan. 18, 2008)
Contains violence, terror and disturbing images.