The Monster that Ate New York City
Release Date: January 18, 2008
Starring: Michael Stahl-David, T.J.
Miller, Lizzy Caplan, Jessica
Lucas, Odette Yustman, and
Genre: Science Fiction
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Runtime: 85 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures/Viacom
Director: Matt Reeves
Executive Producer: Guy Riedel and Sherryl [sic]
Producer: J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk
Writer: Drew Goddard
Address Comments To:Sumner Redstone, Chairman/CEO
Brad Grey, Chairman/CEO
5555 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038-3197
Phone: (323) 956-5000
The movie opens with a U.S. Army video report introducing a homemade digital video found in what was “formerly Central Park.” The beginning of the video introduces viewers to Rob and Beth, who have just spent their first night together. Cut to a month later, with Rob’s brother, Jason, getting the job of recording a going away party for Rob, who has landed an important job in Japan. Jason foists the job, however, on their goofy friend, Hud.
As Hud tapes the party, he learns that, because of Rob’s new job opportunity, Rob never fully pursued a closer relationship with Beth after sleeping with her. Beth shows up at the party with another date. After arguing with Rob, she leaves the party with her date.
The party continues. Suddenly, an earthquake rocks New York City, jolting the partygoers. People rush to the roof, where they suddenly see an explosion rip the top off a building or two in the distance, sending fireballs flying.
The destruction of Manhattan continues. Out in the streets, where the head of the Statue of Liberty has just come flying, Rob, Jason, Jason’s fiancé Lily, and Hud discover that a giant, strange-looking monster is ravaging the city. That’s when Rob gets an urgent call for help from Beth, who’s lying trapped and bleeding in her apartment. Rob decides to rush to her side, and the others stick by him as Hud records their every move.
The jerky movements of the hand-held camera in this movie are unrelenting. So much so that many viewers probably will get sick after a while. This reviewer got a headache and a stomach-ache three-quarters of the way through the movie, but more sensitive viewers may get sick halfway through or earlier.
This technique is certainly different than the usual monster movie, but it spoils what is otherwise a very tense thrill ride with great special effects. Also, because the movie pretends to be a homemade digital video, the characters never really become authentic except when they’re being scared or when there is some humor in the scene. Thus, there is a danger that many viewers will never become invested in the movie’s character relationships. This seems especially true of Rob’s relationships with Beth and his brother, and his brother’s relationship with Lily. The script is also lacking in this regard. It needs better dialogue and better-defined characters. Also, the party scenes at the beginning not only go on too long but also fail to move the plot along as well as fail to define the characters in any truly deeper way.
Content-wise, CLOVERFIELD has a light moral worldview with a strong positive view of the American military. Spoiling these positive qualities are the movie’s very few, brief and relatively light references to sexual promiscuity and its frequent PG-13 foul language. There is also very strong scary violence with some blood and a couple snatches of gore. Overall, the negative and problematic content deserves a strong caution, or Minus Two Acceptability rating, according to MOVIEGUIDE®’s family, biblical guidelines for parents with children.
The jerky movements of the hand-held camera in CLOVERFIELD will eventually cause many viewers to get sick. They also spoil what is otherwise a very tense thrill ride with great special effects. The script, dialogue and characters also could be improved, but the movie has a light moral worldview with a strong positive view of the American military. That said, the movie’s light sexual references, frequent foul language and scary, sometimes bloody violence deserve a strong caution.