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Cloverfield (Possible Spoilers!)

Posted: Sun Jan 20, 2008 5:08 am
by Mr. Tweedy
I saw "Cloverfield" this afternoon.

It was not at all what I was expecting. I was expecting a fun, cheesy monster romp, an homage to Godzilla that would inspire chuckles and the purchase of popcorn.

Not at all: Cloverfield is dark and heavy and horrifying and one of the better movies I have seen. The only chuckles were for rare moments of much-needed comic relief and I was too glued to the screen to think of popcorn.

As far as artistic vision, I think this is about as pure as it gets. They took the idea and ran with it to the point where a lot of people will probably be annoyed and confused by the absence of Hollywood conventions. What we see is only what was on the tape found in Central Park. No explanations, no denouement, no closure. As the credits rolled I found the lack of any answers very dissatisfying, but on reflection, it’s what makes the movie powerful.

Anyway, I don’t mean to ramble on about it, especially if no one else has seen it yet. Save to say, I am very impressed (and pretty creeped out too).

Posted: Mon Jan 21, 2008 2:15 am
by normsherman
Just saw it. We were running late but apparently not late enough- still had to sit through about 20 minutes of an utterly tedious Dawson's Creek episode. Once the monster started tearing crap up it was amazing. I've never been to a movie and felt like I was on a theme park ride.

Neat monster too.

Posted: Mon Jan 21, 2008 5:28 am
by Mr. Tweedy
I totally disagree about the beginning (possibly because I've never seen Dawson's Creek). That was where we get to know the characters. If not for the first 20 minutes, it would just be a bunch of nameless strangers running around. The audience would have no empathy. Remember the part where the mopey woman says "I don't feel good" and 30 seconds later her head explodes? That shocked me. I felt like "No way! She wasn't supposed to die! She's too good to die like that. And she was supposed to fall in love with cameraman. That's so wrong!" If I hadn't seen the beginning part, I wouldn't have felt anything: It would have been just some fake gore on the screen.

Besides, without the character relationships established in that segment, the rest of the story wouldn't happen: They'd have no reason to run across town... And I actually thought the star-crossed lovers part was pretty touching.

I didn't think of it as anything like a thrill ride, either. To me it was scary. It really impressed me how these people have no idea what's going on. In any other movie, the characters would know what and why or have learned by the end, but here shit just starts happening, and it kills them, and they never learn what or why. And I think, "Man, that's how it would really be." It wouldn't have to be a monster: Natural disasters, terrorist attack, nuclear accident, super-plague. If any serious crap like that went down, it would happen with no warning and nobody would have a clue what was going on. That freaks me out.

Along those lines, I hope there isn't ever a Cloverfield 2 or anything like that, because the effectiveness of the movie hinges on the fact that we don't know anything. Our ignorance makes it scary, and if they come out with a Monster FAQ, then it would loose it potency completely.

The only thing in the whole movie that I didn't like was the moment when the Monster stops over Camera Guy and looks him in the eye. I didn't like it because that's what would happen in a movie. I felt like it sacrificed some of the realistic, in-the-moment vibe for the sake of a dramatic monster shot. Everything else seemed like authentic camcorder footage, but that moment seemed like Hollywood.

Funny how we both gave it 4 stars but had such different impressions.


Posted: Mon Jan 21, 2008 11:33 pm
by normsherman
Well, I agree that they needed to have some character development material at the beginning, but it just didn't feel authentic. I was like, why are all these people who look like they are in their late 20's acting like high school kids?

"Dude, did you hear Rob hooked up with Beth?"
"Totally? No way- Oh my God!"

It had an MTV "reality" show feel too it- not very authentic.

When monsterness hit, I though the camera work gimmick worked great- that's where the amusement park ride feel came in for me. It was like being on Space Mountain- you just see enough light to know you might get your head lopped off. I loved all the limited information about the thing- we don't know where it came from, it might eat people, spiders drop off of it, they lay eggs in you? it may have been totally unstoppable. Awesome.

I would have cut that scene you mentioned too- for that reason and also I thought they screwed up the consistency of the monster size there.

Posted: Mon Jan 21, 2008 11:43 pm
by Mr. Tweedy
He he. I've never watched a "reality" show either. Lucky me.

Oh, you mean "thrilling" as in "gripping" or "intense." Gotcha! In that case, most definitely yes, very thrilling.

Posted: Tue Jan 22, 2008 2:10 am
by normsherman
So Tweeds, if you had to formulate a theory on what the thing was and where it came from, what would it be?

Posted: Tue Jan 22, 2008 2:35 pm
by strawman
Where do monsters come from?

MMMmm, from their mommies tummies, Billy.

But you told me I came from your tummy, mommy. Every time I ask you where something comes from, you say it comes from your tummy. And last week you called me a little monster. And daddy held me down and said he was gonna eat me all up. Then there was those weird sounds under my bed when the light went out and I peeked and it was you. :idea: And the other time when Muffy had the accident in the living room, and you made us eat her for dinner...

Mommy, are we monsters? :evil: :twisted:

Posted: Tue Jan 22, 2008 4:47 pm
by Mr. Tweedy
What was that thing? "Something horrible."

I don't think it could have originated in the ocean for a couple of reasons. Mainly, it wasn't streamlined and didn't have any fins. It obviously wasn't a swimmer, and a huge thing like that would be slow and cumbersome clambering around on the ocean floor. A creature that lives under miles of water would probably not have organs for breathing air. Also note the prominence of its eyes, organs that would almost useless to a bottom-dweller. This guy might hang out in the water for short periods, but he's made for land. So, either he's man-made or he came from space.

The man-made angle makes some sense: This thing would be the ultimate weapon. Unstoppable, versatile, terrifying, but without any of the drawback of nuclear weapons–if you can control it, or course. But it seems unlikely that anyone would have made something like without some sure means of killing it if it got out of hand. They would make it with an addiction to something or susceptible to a special virus that kills it. It also seems unlikely that the biological experiments to make it would have been carried out off the coast of NY. Antarctica or Greenland is where you'd do that sort of thing.

So I think the most likely explanation is that the monster is from space. What sort of space monster it is depends on what, exactly, the little biters are and what their relationship is to the big guy. Are they all the same species or are the little ones just hanging on for the ride?

I think that they are all one species and that the big guy's role is as a vehicle to disperse little biters. The big guy hibernates in a cocoon that travels through space until it lands on something wet, which makes it hatch. Then the big guy rampages around the planet, dropping little biters everywhere. These kill and eat everything until the entire planet's biology has been consumed, at which point the planet is virtually covered in a writhing mass of fat, bloated biters. Then we go to Phase 2. All of the biters converge on various locations on the planet (thousands or millions of locations) where they unite and merge into huge cocoons in which new big guys are grown. Once these are ready, biological catapults fling them off into space where they drift for countless years until a lucky few of them land on other wet worlds and eat them. (This idea is probably heavily influenced by "The Beekeepers.")

Do the biters lay eggs in people? I say no. We all get a warm fuzzy feeling when we think about slimy aliens busting from the chests of screaming humans, but we also know that that scenario is implausible: There's no point in laying an egg in a host unless the baby alien is actually going to eat the host. The woman in the movie did not act like she was being eaten from the inside. She acted like she had been poisoned. The jaws of the biters are adapted to grip and hold victims, not to bit off chunks. So I think that the biter injected her with digestive enzymes that were slowly killing her. The final bloody explosion we saw was due to some chemical reaction in her body that had at the moment reached a critical point and caused a sudden buildup of corrosive gas. This was incidental: The explosion is a side-effect of the digestive process, not the purpose of the initial bite.

Alternately, the biters could inject some kind of zombifying substance that turns people into über-biters, in which case the blood we saw was due to the Army killing the woman before she could finish her transformation.

Whew. Well, that's what I think. How does that sound?

Posted: Wed Jan 23, 2008 5:26 am
by normsherman
Yah, I'm with you there- no way was it from ocean vents. It seemed to have some sort of lung-like things on it's head on that close up shot when it looked down at the camera guy. I guess those could have been gils, like it was some sort of newt, but yah, it hads no fins and wasn't very streamlined.
Also very unlikely it was man-made/biological. We just don't have that kindof technology yet. :-)

Interesting cocoon-space ship theory. Seems like they would just get caught in a gravitational orbit somewhere though? I'm not sure how rockets work, but don't you have to have some big jet force to enter our atmosphere? Those would have to be some killer cocoonapults to fire one of those mothers off the planet and out of orbit too.

I would propose a dimensional/portal theory. The thing came from the dimension across the street from Cthulhu and some dumbass cultists or government did something to bridge our worlds and let it in. I like your idea about how it was basically a tank for those little biters. They didn't seem intelligent enough to have manufactured it- maybe some symbiotic relationship. Maybe they controlled it like the mind-control ants.

I like both your alternatives to the little-biter body burstings. You sold me there.

Posted: Wed Jan 23, 2008 8:42 pm
by Mr. Tweedy
Yeah, the biological space travel is pretty far-fetched. Entering the atmosphere could be done by growing a super-thick coating that burns off on entry, but the launching into space is going to be hard to pull off with biological means.

Your supernatural angle is really interesting. These things are actual hell-spawn? Possible, but not as satisfying (to me) a purely "rational" explanation.

How about this angle I just thought of: People have gotten out of hand, reshaping the Earth to too great an extent, so Mother Nature lets one of these things loose to cut us down to size, restore the balance between us and nature. Kind of a mystical/animistic angle that sounds like I pulled it strait out of an anime. (It also isn't very "rational.")

Or this: The monster is a weapon, but not a human one. Destroying NY was like bombing Hiroshima. It says "This is what we can do. Surrender now or we'll let a thousand more of these thing loose." Whose weapon? Space aliens, maybe, but it would be a cool Lovecraftian angle if there is an intelligent species in the deep ocean that has decided to conquer the land, so they created these to subdue the humans.

Speculation is so fun. I almost hope we never learn the official answers.

Re: *spoilers!*

Posted: Thu Jan 24, 2008 10:17 am
by StalinSays
normsherman wrote: "Dude, did you hear Rob hooked up with Beth?"
I hadn't heard till now, but omg! Does Hud know?

You guys have broken this movie down in to the itty bitty pieces already, so I'll save my two cents, and give my one cent. I'm in complete agreement with the 'camera looking up directly in to the monster's face' shot near the end being a failing point. If I had one burning complaint, it was that we saw too much monster. It dropped in awe and mystery each time we saw it, and in the last 3/4 of the movie we saw it plenty (I think the most egregious being the bombing view from the helicopter).

I can't say I was feeling the monster's design. I was hoping for something classic and solid, showing some more 'rubber suit' love. Cloverfield's critter gave me too much of the Halo/video games generic 'bug meets crustacean' vibe (it's just becoming waayyy too prevalent). It worked for the Host, because it was a mutation, but assuming this thing crawled out of the sea (and personally I think it did), I feel like something more flowing and or amorphous would've hit the spot. Also - yes it should be awkward on land, but it shouldn't look like it's in a death crawl. And where, land, seas, space etc. do gimp elbow arms and tentacle feet serve as an adaptation? Perhaps a dimension of pure monkey bars.

All this being said, I did of course love the movie.

Re: *spoilers!*

Posted: Mon Jan 28, 2008 6:27 am
by normsherman
StalinSays wrote: I was hoping for something classic and solid, showing some more 'rubber suit' love.
Whoa- that's exactly what I was hoping it wouldn't be- yet we both gave it 4 stars!

Posted: Mon Jan 28, 2008 6:33 am
by normsherman
Mr. Tweedy wrote: Your supernatural angle is really interesting. These things are actual hell-spawn? Possible, but not as satisfying (to me) a purely "rational" explanation.
Well, I wasn't thinking "hell" as much as just horrors from a parallel existing dimension (a la "The Mist")

I like your weapon angle more- that seems pretty plausible.
Allegedly if you stayed for the end of the credits they left it open ended for a sequel and there is much talk online of what its all about. I'm trying to stay away from it though.

Posted: Thu Jan 31, 2008 5:08 pm
by Mr. Tweedy
normsherman wrote:Well, I wasn't thinking "hell" as much as just horrors from a parallel existing dimension (a la "The Mist")
Yeah, you can tell that Doom is a big influence on my thinking about hostile dimensions. I remember getting Doom for my Super Nintendo and thinking that the short in-booklet story was the coolest idea ever. I still think the various Doom games are some of the most intense creep-you-out experiences I've ever had. Anyway.
stalinsays wrote: It dropped in awe and mystery each time we saw it, and in the last 3/4 of the movie we saw it plenty (I think the most egregious being the bombing view from the helicopter).
I see what you mean, but I think the bombing shot was really necessary for the narrative. Up to that point, we'd never seen the monster take any hits. We'd seen the army shoot at it, but we'd never really seen if it got hit or how much damage it was taking. Seeing it take a direct hit from a B-2 bomber and keep going showed its real power, that it was really something too big and bad for puny humans to tackle. If we hadn't seen that, we'd still have reason to think that it could be killed just by shooting it a bunch of times. The bomb shot was character development.

Posted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 12:57 am
by bolddeceiver
To me it doesn't terribly matter where the monster comes from. Or rather, it comes from exactly where they all come from: Our unquenchable desire for monsters.

I thought this was fantastic, by the way. America finally has its own daikaiju. Oh, I know Hollywood jumped on the giant monster bandwagon at the time, but they were all "Look, a giant [gorilla|ant|mantis|supermodel]!" Japan's monsters, even if they were often partly based on real-world creatures, had some imagination to them. (I mean, have you ever seen a real turtle look or act like Gamera? Clarification: Have you ever, WHILE SOBER, seen a turtle look or act like Gamera?)

And yet, this wasn't by any stretch a copy of the Japanese form. Where the Japanese films were at their base about crowds and cities and nations and armies and, occasionally, heroic scientists (and while some of this is certainly a question of era, you see it even in the more recent Toho films), this was about the importance of the individual's story -- something which both makes it different from the Toho films and at the same time makes it truly American.

Oh, and it was also scary as shit, even the somewhat far-fetched parts, like climbing around on the tilting building.


Forgot to add, the beginning wasn't that bad for me, possibly as a result of my childhood addiction to the Toho films. If you might remember, you could spend up to an hour of buildup before a monster actually came on the scene. So that's expected in my book.

By the way, for monster-lovers, it's worth noting that there's finally (finally being Sept 2006, but I only found out this past December) a US DVD release of the original Japanese cut of Gojira. In fact, it's released in a beautiful two-disc set along with the Raymond Burr-ized "Godzilla, King of Monsters" US release. I actually haven't seen it, though I've seen Gojira fan-subtitled, a while back -- I ended up going the selfless route and bought the only copy in the store as a christmas gift, and I haven't gotten to beg the giftee to let me watch it with him.

Posted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 4:44 pm
by Dustin
Finally seeing this movie, I have now read through these posts and did not see anyone's theory of why it was called "Cloverfield" (unless I read too fast and missed it). You guys have very interesting theories and the girl blowing up was the most enlightening one. I gave the move 4 out of 5 stars (or as I say "worth the over priced admission to the movie").

I agree that the monster mauling the camera man was a weak part of the movie for me too. The other was when the bitter was waiting for them in the stairwell when they rescued the girl from the building. It felt like they just wanted to throw in one of those monsters again and it seemed like a cheep shot.

The real scary part for me was the building because I am afraid of hights. The shape of the monster was great because it allowed for being seen several times without knowing what the hell it really looked like. That was a cleaver trick!

Posted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 5:52 pm
by Mr. Tweedy
What?! You did not give it 4 Stars?! Heretic! We banish you from the forum!

I think "Cloverfield" was just an arbitrary government designation. Like calling your bomb research "Manhattan Project" or your space program "Mercury" or calling a hurricane "Wilma."

"What the heck is that thing?"
"I don't know. Let's call it, um, Cloverfield."
"Okay. That'll work."

Or it could mean something about the monster's origin. No way to know.

My favorite origin theory so far is bolddeceiver's: It came from our love of monsters. I find a weird satisfaction in regarding the destruction of NYC as a literary phenomenon.

Posted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 6:44 pm
by normsherman
Did anyone stay till after the credits? Apparently there was a quick scene that possibly opened things up for Cloverfield 2- which IMO would be a terrible move but a very typical one for Hollywood.

Posted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 7:16 pm
by Mr. Tweedy
I did. There wasn't anything visual at the end, but there was a quick audio clip which, if played backwards, purportedly says "It's still alive." I think we all assumed that it was still alive anyway, so that little hint means nothing.

The music over the end credits was great. I keep checking iTunes so I can buy that track, but no luck so far.

I don't know what I think about the idea of a sequel.

Posted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 10:47 pm
by Dustin
Maybe the monster just wanted a place to graze? So, maybe instead of "Monster Island," they wanted a more charming name like "Cloverfield." "Oh honey, can we take the kids to Cloverfield to see "Clovie" and her nest of bitters?"