Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Crimson and Clover

Just saw CLOVERFIELD – and came away with mixed feelings on the film.

This is the JJ Abrams produced take on the Godzilla-on-a-rampage type monster movies; except this time around told from the point of view of the stompees. A regular joe with a camcorder puts the story on tape with a “I don’t know what’s going on I’m just running for my life” zeal.

Love the idea, and it does get at the story in a fresh and interesting way.

In fact, much of the movie is down right thrilling. And they find very interesting ways to get full value out of the camcorder conceit – including showing bits of the tape that is being recorded over, to fill in some character backstory.

And I admit: some of movie is just pretty darn cool.

So what’s to be mixed about?

Well, first there is the spoiling. No, not the spoiler that I will delve into in a moment, but the way the movie spoils the appetite.

If you ever get motion sickness, you can not watch this movie (at least not on the big screen). The jerky camera style does not let up.

The idea behind the hand-held is to make you feel like you are right in the action. So much so, that when one character tossed her cookies, I felt like joining her. Car sickness extreme.

Okay, and now for my spoiler.

IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE, YOU MAY WISH TO STOP READING AT THIS POINT.

Has every one stopped reading that should have stopped reading? Good.

Aside from the herky-jerky (I think the cameraman was doing Elaine’s dance at some points…) I would have given a fairly positive review to the movie, until the finale…

The end of the movie negates the entire experience. There is no value put on the efforts of the characters, even (nay, especially!) the noble efforts.

Bravery results only in death. Self-sacrifice results only in death (and in more death than if one chose to be selfish instead). Love results only in death.

The movie seems to be a direct response to 9/11 – and the answer to that tragic day seems to be: don’t bother. We don’t know what is happening, we can’t control what is happening, everything is meaningless, so don’t bother loving or living – it isn’t worth it.

Even the depressing Joe from Ecclesiastes acknowledged that we should eat, drink and be merry (for tomorrow we die). Check out the party in CLOVERFIELD – not a whole lot of merry for our leads.

I could buy that this is supposed to be a tragedy, except that the show doesn’t come with any weight. The characters don’t arc, so the process doesn’t put them through a journey (as, say, Gene Hackman in THE POSEIDEN ADVENTURE).

Sure, the lead doof realizes by the end of act one that he shouldn’t have been a snot to his girlfriend, but that doesn’t constitute an arc.

I am NOT saying that a movie needs a happy or “Hollywood” ending. I would vouch for GODFATHER, EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, THE MISSION, RAN, etc. None of which land in joysville.

But they land somewhere.

In CLOVERFIELD, the characters haven’t gone on a journey as a result of this experience; there are no values that are explored or tested as a result of this movie; and the story itself claims a random indifference (it matters not what you do, so don’t do anything or do what you want – who cares?).

So as an audience member, I have to ask:

Why should I care about CLOVERFIELD?

Just my thoughts,

Sean

5 comments:

Emily said...

you know that they filmed part of this movie on our lot, right? when they were here, they were on Hennesy and Tenement Street and all their little golf carts and call sheets said the name of the production was "Slusho." and though i haven't seen the film (don't think i will, either), i heard that a character in the movie is wearing a shirt that says "Slusho."

Gaffney said...

Another bloggers take on the movie:

http://www.doxaweb.com/blog/2008/01/spoiler-free-review-of-cloverfield.htm

Alexa said...

Character arcs - reminds of the most awesome screenwriting class I took...

Cory Edwards said...

I have to ask a very mysterious "J.J." question after this review:

How do you know they died?

As for no arc or point... What I got out of it was that Rob had one goal: "If I'm gonna die, before I do, I'm going to save Beth from dying alone, and I'm going to tell her I love her."

And he accomplishes that goal.

IF he died... Which you cannot say for sure.

No, it's not "The Godfather," but I loved it.

Gaffney said...

Hmmm... A sequel is in the works, maybe that's the key.

For those who haven't seen it yet, or (more important) are seeing it for a second time, pay attention to the background during the final Coney Island scene. I missed it, as did most of the people I've talked to about the movie (except Karen Schnurr...)

-S