Friday, January 27, 2012

2007 Saturn – CLOVERFIELD

This is the first movie I’ve covered here in a long time (since Alien Nation, I think) that I’d never seen before. I wasn’t actively avoiding it; I just never got around to it. The film was most famous for its mysterious marketing and the involvement of geek-God J. J. Abrams. I’m not a big Abrams guy, and the mystery thing didn’t hook me, so I stayed home.  But, I was intrigued, and I liked screenwriter Drew Goddard from his Buffy work…so I was kind of surprised to discover just how much I hated this.

The film is presented as found footage of a giant monster attack (that’s a kaiju attack, for my many Japanese readers). Some dudes are filming their friend Rob’s going away party when Manhattan is attacked by a big slimy thing from the sea. It throws the Statue of Liberty’s head at them, and eats people with its spider babies. You know, the usual. Eventually, douchebag-dude Rob, camereman-dude Hud, his crush Marlena, and hot-chick Lily, go into the heart of the attack to look for Rob’s friend-with-benefits-chick Beth. I wish I didn’t have to reduce all the characters to such simple descriptions, but that’s about as deep as the film gets, despite spending a fair amount of time on them. Maybe they’re just really shallow people?

The core problem here is that the film tries to have it both ways, as cinema verite AND Hollywood blockbuster. Unlike, say, the Blair Witch Project, there’s a slickness to the production that belies its conceit. The most obvious manifestation of this is the unrealistic hotness of all of the characters. Look around the early party scenes; it’s quite clearly a room full of young actors and actresses. The performances aren’t particularly naturalistic either. I never bought the “realness” of the footage, which meant that shaky cam, jump cuts, and the lengthy early party scenes accomplished nothing more than annoying me. I do wonder if it might have been better in the theater, but I don’t think that’s much of an excuse (although, I should note that, in a weird bit of synchronicity, my Netflix Blu-Ray disc got kind of jumpy in the last ten minutes or so as the camera was malfunctioning. I guess that just enhanced the effect, right?)

There’s a good idea here: a small, character focused film about a very big natural disaster.  If the characters had been more interesting, and the production had committed more to making the film seem “real,” it could have been amazing. As it is, I’d call it an annoying waste of time.

Grade: D

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