Saturday, January 16, 2010

Boil It First Presents... Unpopular Opinions of the 21st Century: Cloverfield Was Alright!

There's nothing glamorous about insomnia. You reach a certain point in the night (or, as the case may be, early morning) and you just start to ache. Your head aches, your back aches, your fingers and toes ache. Not to mention the fact that you just start to look a total mess. Smeared mascara, bags under the eyes, the whole shebang. By the time the sun rises, you find yourself bearing a frightening resemblance to Zooey Deschanel in Manic, messy dark hair and all. Or maybe that's just me.

The one good thing about insomnia is that my mind does tend to wander in pretty amazing ways, leading to some fun googling and even more fun reminiscing, occasionally with the aid of google. For instance, last night went something like this: "Man, I can't wait to have a costume party. It's gonna be superhero themed and I am so gonna dress as Liz Sherman." I thought. "Speaking of Liz Sherman, I sure wish I was watching Hellboy II: The Golden Army right now. Hey, remember that green monster in Hellboy II? He totally looked like the Cloverfield monster. Yeah, Cloverfield. I remember that. It wasn't nearly as bad as everyone seems to say..."

Do you like how I used Zooey "I'm Quirky and Indie!" Deschanel and Hottie McHot-Hot Selma Blair to get your attention? Sorry to say but this is the last you'll be seeing of them in this here blog. Instead, we'll be talking about this gorgeous little guy...

The Cloverfield monster (Let's just call him "Clover" as the production folks on the movie did from here on out, shall we?) first gained notoriety with viral marketing and a short teaser trailer that was shown before Transformers, neither of which either showed Clover but both of which got people talking.

As we may have mentioned before, I'm something of a "lady nerd" so it's only natural that I was all about the trailer for Cloverfield, spending many-a-Friday-night on message boards, theorizing about exactly what Cloverfield was gonna be about. Pair internet hype and a sweet ass teaser trailer with the fact that one of my favorite screenwriters, Drew Goddard, penned the script, and you've got a very intrigued gal on your hands.

Few films of 2008 were hyped the way that Cloverfield was. JJ Abrams, Cloverfield's producer and a large part of the zeitgeist-slash-phenom that is Lost, has the habit of shrouding his projects in secrecy and building mass amounts of nerd-interest just by attaching his name to a project. After the above trailer hit theaters and, subsequently, the internet, theories began flying that the film was going to be a long-overdue adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu, a remake of Godzilla, or perhaps even a film about Voltron. (The Voltron thing came about because of people claiming the line "It's alive!" heard in the trailer was actually "It's a lion!" I'm not against the idea of a Voltron film but it seems, honestly, just stupid to make a Voltron movie low-budget style with a handheld camera. Voltron would have to be some Transformers style big budget shit in order to work and even then, people would have to have quite the suspension of disbelief. But if Transformers won crowds over, anything's possible.) The fact that the original teaser was shown before what became one of the biggest movies of the summer of 2007 and featured no title just added to the hoopla.

By the time the release date, 1-18-08, rolled around, the film had been building buzz for more than six months and alarmingly little was actually known about the project. The viral marketing involved websites with mysterious snapshots, a drink called Slusho, and a fake Japanese company called Tagruato. When Cloverfield actually did come out, it had built so much hype that a backlash was inarguable and imminent.

I saw Cloverfield on opening day, as I'm occasionally prone to do when a movie has me that intrigued. As one of the people who had been pouring over the viral sites and gobbling up any spoiler I could find on the movie (Which were few and far between, by the by. That JJ Abrams knows how to keep a secret.), I was not only completely satisfied with the film but also thought it lived up to all of it's aforementioned hype.

That's something that became quite the unpopular opinion promptly after the film was released and that's understandable. Cloverfield had quite the reputation to live up to. Personally, my only real complaint about the movie is that when I'm promised an exploding chick, I want to actually see an exploding chick! Guts and all, not just a silhouette of the happenings. Is that to say Cloverfield was a perfect movie? No. It had a good script, a good premise, good affects, and more than a few cheap thrills. The fact that Cloverfield never transcends "good" and achieves anything close to "greatness" isn't a bad thing. Monster movies aren't really supposed to be great. They're supposed to be creepy and fun and on those two points, Cloverfield delivered.

Sure, there was that unnecessary manga, used to build international interest with a nonsensical storyline that involved an evil cult and an even more evil corporation, which was probably the corporation that that one dude in the movie was moving to Japan to work for (Thank god there's no English translation of that shit!) and many of the mysteries invented for the websites never really paid off as there was no "scientific" explanation for the monster or concrete answer as to where it came from. (While it's never outright stated in the movie, it's pretty much fact that the falling thing at the end of the film is a satellite which bonked Clover on the head and made him angry. He then came up from his ocean crevasse and decided to bonk the first thing he found on the head as part of a revenge scheme. That "first thing" ended up being the Statue of Liberty. Then Clover got upset and ran around New York for a while. He's not scary, he's just misunderstood. Also, Clover was featured in a hilarious hack of Robert Pattinson's Wikipedia page where it was stated that the Twilight actor could often be spotted, in his free time, walking his dog, the Cloverfield monster.)

In addition to that unnecessary manga is the let's-hope-it's-never-made Cloverfield 2, which would more or less ruin everything Cloverfield stood for. The main characters? Well, they're pretty much all dead. Clover? He's probably dead too. JJ Abrams has already said that the sequel wouldn't feature the hand held camera action that made the original what it was which means Cloverfield 2 would simply be another big budget Hollywood cash-in the way of Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows, a movie which, ten or so years back, ruined it's predecessor with sheer awfulness.

All in all, Cloverfield is just another Paranormal Activity-esque case of a film being buried under it's own hype. Granted, Cloverfield came out before Paranormal Activity so it really is vice-versa. Additionally, Cloverfield asked for it's hype, what with it's use of viral marketing, whereas Paranormal Activity was a true "word of mouth" phenom. Also, I actually liked Cloverfield. Paranormal Activity? Not so much. (Mainly because I didn't find it scary. Honestly, the whole "standing over the bed" bit was scary when my old roommate did it to me last year. By the time Paranormal Activity came out, that was old hat.) The point, however, is the fact that Cloverfield wasn't all bad. In fact, it wasn't bad at all. Much like Clover himself, it was just misunderstood.

Amber Valentine is the girl behind The Hot Half Life and the Features Editor of TRACER Magazine. She doesn't like long walks on the beach and sunsets are okay. She does, however, like whiskey and Skyline chili.

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