Cloverfield may not be the greatest giant monster film of all time, but it is the most realistic one. As with other genres, giant monster films have long been made from a simple premise without much drastic change - a giant creature which possesses overwhelming might causes unprecedented disaster. Cloverfield overcomes it with style. This film even blows the audience out of their seats sometimes.
The film confines every aspect of the story within the first person point of view. Except for the opening and end credits, the body of the film consists of footage from a single camcorder. It easily reminds the audience of the similarly constructed THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, but there is an important difference between BWP and 1-18-08. A camcorder can shoot new footage on the recorded one, erasing it. The filmmakers successfully resolved the “BLAIR WITCH PROJECT complex” with this feature and interweaved it to further the plot. Also, the singular point of view of camera deliberately provides limited information on screen, which makes the audience watch the film more actively.
The fact that the main characters are not professionals like soldiers or scientists, but ordinary people, is not that common in the giant monster films. Also, camcorders and cell phones are much more important devices than chemicals or bombs in this particular film. These aspects make me compare Cloverfield with the Korean movie "THE HOST", a very excentric monster film from a country not so famous for monster films. Both films were not consumed by the cliches of the genre.
With these elements, the audience can easily get familiar with the characters and feel empathy. Then, as soon as the audience begin to think that they like the characters, their everyday life collapses with a thundering, monstrous roar. As the film progresses, the audience practically become the characters because they already share the points of view with their counterparts in the story. In Cloverfield, the audience does not merely watch the giant monster film. They experience it.
Some fans could worry, “How can a camcorder captures grandiose, panoramic image of the giant monster spectacle?” Cloverfield does deliver many trademark scenes of usual giant monster action by clever editing and flow planning. How can a non-professional with a camcorder shoot the monster collapsing skyscrapers like dominos as it marches in the city,
higher from the ground? After Steven Spielberg’s WAR OF THE WORLDS(review by nido somewhere), Cloverfield is the most visually stunning giant monster film.
Among many particularly impressive things of Cloverfield, one thing still disturbs me. Even after watching (experiencing, to be exact) the film, I could not do away with fear and terror that the monster brought. The origin of the Cloverfield monster was not revealed at the end of the film. And it neither was killed nor avoided. The audience does not know what the true identity of it is. To me, the monster is like metaphors for ever-present fear and uneasiness in the whole world, in this year of two thousand and eight, that we could never know their cause and symptoms.
Cloverfield is a film that lives up to its overhyped promotion. The monster succeeded in standing on its own. On our very backyard. It’s one hell of a ride.