Edit Content

Main Menu

Fonts of Knowledge


Recommended Sites


Are you aware of Garfield?




I’ll readily confess to having willingly submitted to JJ Abrams’ frequent calling card of flagrant, form-over-content mystery boxing. Even as it was derided almost as soon as it became a thing, it was also a highly effective way of winning attention. Lost has become Exhibit A in this approach being a house of cards, mostly because it promised so much, for so long, and failed even to deliver a half-satisfying finale/reveal. Something like Super 8 is pretty much forgotten. The very loose Cloverfield franchise/anthology has proved less predictable in that regard, probably because there’s a retro-fitting approach to its title holders; the first received mixed reactions, the second was generally feted, and the third unceremoniously dumped on Netflix. This is the first time I’ve revisited the original since I saw it in the cinema, and if it loses something, absent of up-close, big-screen immediacy, it remains a highly competent monster/disaster movie.

Cloverfield was a success (it was cheap) but it wasn’t the event it might have been, given the waves of Internet hype. It was no The Blair Witch Project, as found-footage conceits went (which is to its maximum aesthetic and creative favour, if markedly less so box office). It’s really not much of anything beyond visceral impact either, which is fine, because that impact is delivered smartly and with visual verisimilitude by director Matt Reeves – he’s since gone on to greater success and acclaim, but this is certainly his most economical movie in form and consequently most satisfying overall – and supported by a solid, if occasionally contrived, template from screenwriter Drew Goddard. 

The characters are nothing-much, forgettable twentysomethings; most of them seem to have gone on to TV work, which is why I still don’t register them aside from Theo Rossi (in a briefest of appearances at the opening party), Lizzy Caplan (with the main quartet, destined to explode) and TJ Miller (largely unseen but mostly heard as the camera operator; Miller, of course, has more recently become infamous and persona non grata for a seemingly endless series of alleged indiscretions, from #MeToo related, to transphobia, to assault, to workplace unprofessionalism, to calling in bomb threats). This was his first movie role, and while he’s unseen for the most part, Hud’s by far the most present participant; he may annoy, but at least he has a personality (Caplan’s Marlena, whom Hud has a crush on, does too, but has limited chance to show it). 

Of the others, Michael Stahl-David’s Rob is a reckless idiot who takes it upon himself to head across town to rescue sort-of-girlfriend Beth (Odette Yustman). His excuse for acting utterly irresponsibly is that his brother Jason (Mike Vogel) has just died – when the big creature in the bay destroyed Brooklyn Bridge – so he may not be acting 100-percent rationally. As such, he observes 101s for what not to do in both horror and disaster movies. Like don’t go down a dark tunnel voluntarily, even or especially if it might be a shortcut to your destination. And don’t climb up a dangerously collapsible building, even via one it’s leaning precariously against. 

The miracle of the latter is that his ruse is a success, saving Beth, who even more miraculously is able to run about the place within minutes, despite having been royally skewered by a rebar. Less successful is his tunnel trek, since that’s where Marlena is lacerated by a squittery parasite thing. It’s fitting then, that only Lily (Jessica Lucas) should make it out alive as, while everyone involved proves extremely dumb for not getting the hell out when they had a chance, she’s probably the most sympathetic.

The lack of subtext from JJ should be no surprise, particularly since he says he got the idea from seeing Godzilla toys in Japan and thought “Wouldn’t it be nice to have an American monster of similar proportions” (Rob is due to go to Japan for a job, so it makes for kind-of an exchange programme). Godzilla was a comment on the nuke threat. This monster is a commentary on… Well, the instant response is “another terrorist attack?”, invoking 9/11 fear porn (the movie received some criticism for this, but arguably less offensive to reflect it than predict it). The first we see of a disturbance is an oil tanker capsizing, however, suggesting an eco-message; look what the destruction of Gaia has unleashed! I’m sure Greta’s handlers have it conspicuously on positioned her DVD shelf. 

Hud: I mean, for all we know, it’s from another planet and flew here.

That slightly falls apart, it seems, if you research the viral marketing. Yes, it’s an ancient amphibious organism discovered during the construction of an oil platform by a Japanese company off the Connecticut coast. But rather than drilling for oil, this is for the purposes of extracting Sea Bed Nectar… the secret ingredient for drink Slusho??? Really?! What is this, Futurama? Apparently, after the creature’s discovery, the co uses the platform to study the creature and its parasites (which have been using the nectar to nourish the creature). I’m unsure that one can construe anything cogent from that mess. There’s still an enviro aspect, but it’s rather muddied by the lunacy. However, a deadly threat to the wellbeing of future generations, in the oceans, that isn’t oil and may be introduced into our foodstuffs… Black Goo perhaps? Further, it seems this web take is only canonical when it suits the makers; when discussing a sequel, Reeves referenced seeing something dropping into the ocean in the final scene, which may have been a satellite crashing or a creature.

Perhaps then, the more pervasive point is that man’s messing with nature will come back and bite him in the ass. Earlier, but relatively recent, act-of-god disaster fare like The Day After Tomorrow, Armageddon and The Core were giving way to science-gone-wrong, or something sinister unleashed, per 28 Days Later, I Am Legend, The Mist and The Happening; humanity has it coming, whatever it is, most likely culminating in the coof. There’s also a Ukrainian man asking for help to find his daughter and family; I’m sure that can be construed somehow, in a programming sense.

At the time, there was speculation over content – it was Lost related, an actual Godzilla sequel, Lovecraftian – which tends to reflect how mystery-piquing productions can frequently backfire as fans will invariably come up with something significantly more promising – or geeky, at very least – than the actual movie. The title wasn’t fixed for ages, such that the makeshift name (the government’s case designation) finally stuck. As is usually the case, there were complaints about shakycam etc, but that’s par for the course with this kind of thing. Short of Soderbergh being at the party and turning the proceedings into an impromptu sequel to Schizopolis, this was always going to be how it looked. 

It seems a bona-fide sequel is back on the agenda – it was initially delayed due to kaju fatigue – but the whole Bad Robot deal looks increasingly precarious right now (is JJ even alive? He’s at very least in stricken retreat, licking his Star Wars wounds). All its movies are pending productions, and most of its TV shows are dead in the water (indeed, while there are a few multi-season success stories historically, the stiffs far outnumber them). I haven’t actually checked out the last couple of their movies (Overlord, Lou), but I don’t see a significant backlog building up any time soon.

Our Score

Click to Confirm Your Score
[Total: 0 Average: 0]

Most Popular

What is currently passing for knowledge around here.

  • I thought this was the cousins’ dinner.
    I thought this was the cousins’ dinner.
  • Old Boggy walks on Lammas Eve.
    Old Boggy walks on Lammas Eve.
  • Send in the Clones: Donald Marshall and the Underworld
    Esoterica Now
    Send in the Clones: Donald Marshall and the Underworld
  • The Vaccine
    The Q & A
    The Vaccine
  • You’ve got a lot to learn, jungle man.
    You’ve got a lot to learn, jungle man.
  • When the horizon’s in the middle, it’s boring as shit.
    When the horizon’s in the middle, it’s boring as shit.