"The Monster that Ate New York City"
CLOVERFIELD is a tense monster movie about a young man and his friends who race to save his girlfriend after a giant monster attacks New York City, all shot by one of the man’s friends using a hand-held digital camera. Jerky camera movements, an uneven script, frequent foul language, some edgy violence, and light sexual references spoil what is otherwise a very tense thrill ride with great special effects and heroic moral moments.
CLOVERFIELD is a movie that tries to put some needed life back into the giant monster movie. It is somewhat successful.
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.
(B, PP, Pa, LLL, VVV, S, N, A, M) Light moral worldview with strong positive view of the American military, marred by some pagan attitudes and lifestyle choices from the lead characters, who are, however, sometimes heroic; at least 35 obscenities, seven strong profanities and 32 light profanities; very strong scary violence with some blood and brief gratuitous gore (but not extremely in your face) includes explosions, soldiers battle giant monster and smaller monsters, bombs explode, buildings explode, large chunk of statue comes flying into street, giant monster destroys buildings as it attacks and as it fights soldiers and tanks, small monsters attack people in tunnel, woman has gashes on her torso from small monsters attacking and her nose starts to bleed, woman’s torso explodes in silhouette in a spray of red against a hospital sheet, images of victims being treated, monster bends down and grabs man with its mouth but the chomping and eating is not shown, copter crashes, man hit and killed by flying chunk of a bridge or building, and bridge sways and crumbles, killing hundreds of people massed on it; unmarried young man wakes up unmarried young woman in his bed, implying pre-marital sex or fornication; upper male nudity in one shot and some brief shots of female cleavage; alcohol use at party; no smoking or drug references; and, people are shown looting in one brief scene and young man foists a job he’s been given by his fiancé on a friend.
CLOVERFIELD is a monster movie. It opens with a U.S. Army video report introducing a homemade digital video found in what was “formerly Central Park.” The first scene introduces viewers to unmarried Rob and Beth, who have just woken up in Rob’s apartment. Cut to a month later, with Rob getting a going away party after landing a big job in Japan. Suddenly, an earthquake rocks the partygoers. People rush to the roof, where they suddenly see a distant explosion rip part of a building, sending fireballs flying. A giant monster is attacking the city, and Rob and his friends race to save Beth, who’s lying trapped and bleeding in her apartment.
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.