Directed By Matt Reeves
Starring Michael Stahl-David, Jessica Lucas, Mike Vogel
This is a film that has really divided critics. I didn’t have an opportunity to see the film early so I didn’t of course do an advanced review. Watching all the other reviews hit the web made me want to go ahead and speak my mind about this most unique of monster movies.
This film has been hyped for a long time with vague and purposefully mysterious websites, ads, and product placement. The mysterious campaign and the film’s connection to LOST and Alias creator JJ Abrams brought about speculation that there was some big mystery around the film and its “codename”. Well, let me say this without giving away too much; there is no mystery. In fact, this monster attacks New York film is about as basic and straightforward as it can be. That doesn’t mean it’s not good because it is the creators have just chosen to approach the classic formula in a an innovative way.
Typically a story like this, such as King Kong, is told in a very epic way with an almost global feeling. This style of filmmaking makes the attack feel extremely destructive and scary. With Cloverfield the creators have decided to approach a story like this from the ground level. Instead of showing a global perspective they show the attack from an individual, or at least small group perspective. There’s obviously a 9/11 allegory here with scenes of destruction and people reacting similarly in the film to that tragic day. There’s also a small comment on people’s need to overly record everything that happens in their lives. There is opportunity for deeper social commentary in the film but it is mostly just anecdotal rather than deep commentary with the creators choosing instead to bury the film in the action of survival, which isn’t a bad choice, just a choice.
The basic story follows a group of hipsters at a going away party for one of Rob who ahs taken a job in Japan. Rob’s brother is given a video camera to record the night’s events and get comments from all of Rob’s friends. We learn through the first several minutes of the film that Rob had sex with a girl who had been a really close friend and now things are awkward between them. These are all really annoying people and just before things get to irritating all Hell breaks lose when a giant monster attacks the city. The group makes a break for it with Rob’s brother constantly recording everything. The entire film is shot from the perspective of the recording.
Many critics, usually the cooler ones, have given bad marks to this film because they hate all of the characters in the film. I’m really on the fence in this regard, certainly not willing to take points away from the film due to the characters. I don’t like any of them myself, and in real life I would probably hate these people. They’re the types we’d see whooping it up with Paris Hilton and some overpriced night club. Here’s the thing though, in this location in Manhattan you’d be more likely to run into these people than a cooler crowd, so these unlikable characters add an additional layer of reality to the proceedings. I will say that it’s hard to care what happens to many o these people because there’s no emotional connection to be made with any of them.
As it stands, there’s a real art house sort of approach to this big monster movie and it really works to make the action suspenseful and exciting. This takes the idea of The Blair Witch Project to a new and more successful level. For me, this is easily one of the best monster movies to hit theaters since the 70’s and it should be experienced in a theater for the first viewing.
At first this may not seem like the film you’d pick to demo your new HD rig with Blu-Ray but the image here is quite stunning. Yes it’s supposed to be grainy and out of focus becuase of the style of the shoot but if you pay close attention you’ll see that even in its effected state the level of detail is outstanding. In several scenes you can see clearly very fine puffs of dust floating around after a big crash and all of the rubble detail is fantastic.
The only thing that hampers this presentation is an inconsistency in black levels. In some scenes the darkness engulfs everything as clean as anything I’ve seen then in other scenes there’s a fine layer of compression grain, not done purposefully for effect. Other than that though this is a stellar presentation.
The TrueHD 5.1 presentation here is easily one of the best I’ve heard. The filmmakers play with the audio a lot in this film for effect, sometimes for dramatic effect and other times just to remind us we are watching footage shot with a camcorder and it all works just as well at home as it did in the theater – providing you have a sound system capable of taking advantage of the presentation. The use of dymanic effects, subwoofer, and surround speakers is as immersive as anything I’ve seen in the the blu-ray format. Also, dialogue always cuts through and is easy to make out, even with the audio tricks the filmmakers have played with it.
I can’t find one thing to complain about, thus…
The Packaging and bonus features
The single disc release is simply packaged in an amaray case with the poster art for the cover. The poster art was cool for the poster but now it just seems like a bit of a let down. Not one studio has done something fun and unique for any blu-ray release yet. If anyone can do ti Paramount can, probably in a double dip around the holidays.
The bonus features aren’t as plentiful as they should have been but they are of a top notch quality, no filler here.
The first thing I had to check out were the deleted scenes and alternate endings. The deleted scenes were pretty terrible and removed for good reason. The alternate endings were mostly just other riffs on the ending we eventually got. The ending the director close was the strongest of the bunch but it was cool to see the other options considered.
The making of featurette is fairly extensive and covers a bit of everything from the inception of the film through the production of it. It’s a great watch and the best bonus feature on the disc. There are two short featurettes on the visual effects, one focused on the design of the creature and the other focused on the CGI and practical effects used to make L.A. look like New York City. There are way more CGI sequences and effects used in this film than I had originally realized so seeing them discussed and demoed here is pretty fascinating stuff.
The audio commentary from the director is interesting if you can get through his excruciating over use of the phrase “sort of” or actually the word “sorta” throughout. He offers some insight into the making of the film but overall it’s just not that memorable of a commentary.
With high definition releases I look for more in the way of bonus features. This release is fairly disappointing only offering one bonus feature: “Special Investigation Mode” an alternative method of watching the film that shows it shrunken in the upper right corner with a map and factoids boxes taking up the rest of the screen. I will say this is a fun way to watch the film because the locations of the monsters, the military, and the civilians are all tracked on the map adding a layer of suspense to the film. You’ll see just how close the monster gets to them a couple of times and barely misses running into them. It’s a lot of fun, for one viewing. This film really deserved more in the special features department.
Paramount released some of the most impressive looking and sounding HD-DVD’s on the market and now they are bringing that expertise to blu-ray. Now we just need more bonus features.
Overall (Not an Average) 8.5/10
The Movie 9/10
The Video 8/10
The Audio 7.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8.5/10