A real box office monster

In the film industry, hype is a very dangerous thing. When the mysterious “Cloverfield” trailer debuted with “Transformers” last year, the internet went wild. Then Comic-Con rolled around, and it went even wilder. Going into the film, nobody quite knew what it was about. The general knowledge: there is a monster attacking Manhattan and people die. After seeing the final product, we can tell you this: a monster goes absolutely crazy on Manhattan, but the film is truly about a group of friends trying to survive a terrible disaster. And despite all the mystery and intense hype, the movie delivers on all accounts.

“Cloverfield” is shown from a first person view, and it’s as if the tape was recovered by the government. Rob Hawkins (Michael David-Stahl) is a somewhat typical pretty boy on his way to Japan for a big job promotion. He’s in the love with Beth (Odette Yutsman), she loves him, but they aren’t together. After a romantic encounter, they are off to Coney Island for a day of fun…until the tape switches over to Rob’s going away party, being filmed by his best friend Hud (T.J. Miller). Rob has blown it with Beth, she ruins his time, and as he discusses the issues with Hud and his brother, the ground shakes and the power cuts out. An explosion takes place and the Statue of Liberty’s head comes barreling down their street.

From that point on, “Cloverfield” turns into an intense, captivating survival feature, not focusing so much on the monster as it does on Rob trying to get back to Beth. There are glimpses of the monster from time to time (there is a big pay off), but pushing the characters towards the forefront really helps the film’s cause.

There are obvious 9-11 parallels in this film. Buildings topple, smoke billows through the streets of all of Manhattan.

But instead of proving something political, producer JJ Abrams and director Matt Reeves show how today’s society would react: by taking pictures and video first, then saving their own lives later. The first person view thrusts you into the action and drama, giving it a heightened sense of life and reality. You feel for these characters, and you are hoping the whole time that Rob can get back to Beth.

The shaky-cam isn’t a negative either; it is incredibly well done, trumping the similar style of “28 Weeks Later.”

The monster itself is incredibly hard to describe. It is quite unique; a rarity in this day in age, but it carries with it some familiarities. Many have theorized that it is like Godzilla or Cthulu (a fictional giant being), but those don’t come close to describing this monstrosity. The ending itself is appropriate and fulfilling. We won’t go into it too much, obviously, but we’ll leave at this: you will feel closure, but stick around for the credits.

“Cloverfield” does exactly what it was suppose to do: entertain and be completely exciting. It certainly won’t go down as a work of genius, or one of the greatest films of all time, but it definitely will be seen as one of the better monster/thriller films of recent times.

3.5/4 stars