I had to take a break from all things current event related (what with the death and mayhem on MUNI and the ongoing mess that is local politics), so I went to the movies on Friday to see Cloverfield on opening day. And, I’m happy to say that for what it was, and for the purposes I selected it, the film did the job quite well.
J.J. Abrams and his talented team of directors and writers managed to pull of what hadn’t really been done before – do a “monster attacks a city” movie solely from the perspective of people caught in the middle of it who don’t know the hows or whys of what is going on – just that Bad Things Are Happening, and there’s no way to tell from moment to moment what one “should” do.
Although the hand-held camera perspective did get some people a little carsick-ish at times, the level of intensity once the sh*t went down was pretty realistic. More than once you wanted the guy holding the camera to turn around and get a better look at The Big Monster or whatever, but of course, that just made it more realistic and a lot scarier, since you had to imagine just what the heck was going on. And, as we all know, people imagining what is going on can come up with things way scarier than any Hollywood producer.
More importantly, the film did a really good job of portraying the sheer panic, chaos, and attempt at response by the government to a disaster than any I’ve seen in a while. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of being in a big natural or man-made disaster, there’s always that moment when you have that feeling like the ground just fell out from under you, and suddenly just about everything that seemed so important a moment ago means squat, and now, Sh*t Is Bad. If anything, it has made me wonder if I should be developing a Post Apocalyptic Workout as the Slackmistress has done, to prepare for the next big (quake, monster, zombies, terrorist attack, whatever). After Katrina, does anyone really think the federal government has even a small clue as to what to do in case of (quake, monster, zombies, terroist attack, whatever)?
One thing that I thought of as the credits rolled and the heroic music that would normally have played during a “typical” monster film was that it might have been kind of cool for the producers to put out a fake trailer after Cloverfield came out of what the film would have looked like had they done the 10000th Remake of Godzilla route. You can almost hear the dialogue: “Mr. President….Manhattan is under attack…by a…a… Space Bug!” “You can’t kill that thing with rockets and bullets….you need to use the nukes!” “Time to spray for bugs in Manhattan….American style!”
And so on.
Anyway, it was a great way to get away from the ongoing, bit-by-bit decay that seems to be enveloping Our Fair City, and our country in general, and aside from annoying ads for Mucinex at the theater, was worth the 9.50 I paid.
PS: For another film that provides that hand-held camera, “you are there” approach, go rent 84 Charlie Mopic. I saw this movie years ago, and the experience has stuck with me even though I only saw it once. Definitely worth seeing. And if you want to really get scared, go search for the hand-held real video our soldiers are shooting in Iraq. I’ve seen a few of these and all I can say is that if we don’t give these guys like, super nice treatment when they come back from that hell-hole, well then we suck.
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