Cloverfield [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (20th June 2008).
The Film

One of cinema's most popular cult genre's is the monster movie, from Japan's "Godzilla" (1954) to America's "Godzilla" (1998) the genre is one which developed as a product of it's time. Often the monster is a allegory for current social and political times, the giant gorilla Kong in the classic "King Kong" (1933) was a symbol of a tragic hero caught in the frustration that was the depression, it was escapist cinema that people could relate to (even though the title character was an animal). "Godzilla" was a product of post-war Japan, a mutation that evolved from the fallout of nuclear by-product, a genuine concern after the tragedy of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The history of the monster movie is a long and interesting one, and like other genre's that are born out of circumstance it too evolves into mindless entertainment and has become a style over substance genre, with some exceptions like the supremely excellent Korean monster flick "The Host" (2006), which had both style and substance.

"Cloverfield" enters the ranks of genre with gusto and a multi-million dollar marketing campaign that virtually ensured it's success, it's a film that merges the monster movie genre with the all too popular first-person perspective that has spread across the internet like a virus. Specifically the so-called "youtube generation." It's an new way to look at the genre and one that in fact delivers an entertaining thrill ride, but the film is far from good as there's plenty to groan at. The monster, I'm glad to say, is not one such example. In fact the monster is incredibly terrifying and I tip my hat to the filmmaker's for making the right decision to not show too much. And if you had to, I suppose the film could be considered as an allegory for the current war on terror/U.S. government policy...it feels like a stretch but I really wanted to try and give some substance to what can otherwise be considered mindless entertainment.

"Cloverfield" is developed by recent in-demand TV and film guru J.J. Abrams (who acts as producer), the film's popularity reach a mass prior to the film's release thanks to the viral marketing campaign that literally had people talking about this mysterious monster movie, and was as effective if not more so than the "what is the Matrix" campaign launched for the first installment of that now bloated trilogy. I hadn't seen anything this effective and ingenious in some time. The box office numbers proved it wasn't just a fluke as the film raked in some decent coin and a sequel is already in development.

"Cloverfied" tells the story of a group of friends from New York who are throwing a going away party for Rob (Michael Stahl-David) who is moving to Japan, his close-nit friends include his brother Jason (Mike Vogel) and his girlfriend Lily (Jessica Lucas), Rob's best friend is Hudson aka "Hud" (T.J. Miller) who is given the responsibility of filming the party and getting testimonials from the guests about their friend. Also at the party is Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) and Beth (Odette Yustman) the girl that Rob is in love with. During the party, the city is attacked by a monster. The military are sent in to fight the creature running amok throughout New York. Rob and his friends must make it safety but Beth is missing and they must find her, avoid the monster and make it safety. All throughout this time Hud's camera documents their struggle.

What I liked about this film was the first-person camera perspective, it felt realistic and natural, this added to the tension and heightened the scares. The glimpses of the creature were enough to warrant adequate chills and the interactions between the cast (which felt improvised) were well directed and exciting to behold, it get you thinking about how you would react in this same situation as you're literally placed square in the middle of this action. Some dialogue can be deemed corny/cheesy and does give off the eye-roll effect but overall the film's scripting action was tight if a little predictable. I would have also liked a bit more character development, even though the film takes a good 20 minutes to get going and most of the set-up is the going away party which in effect is used as a device to get to know the characters, despite this I was a little detached and really didn't care too much about who lived and who died.

There were also elements that stood out which seemed ridiculous, one of my biggest 'what the?' moments was when the group finally find Beth in her apartment, she's crushed under some concrete and has a metal spike through her, yet a quick removal of said spike and she's up for action , granted with a little limp, but soon enough she's on the run as if nothing ever ran through her body leaving a gaping bloody hole! Perhaps adrenaline can be used as an argument? But I did find that moment very super-hero. Speaking of which there are moments like these peppered throughout the film, but mainly it's a thrill of avoiding the monster and the devastation that really drives this film.

If you're looking for a great plot in this monster film then look elsewhere, "Cloverfield" is designed as pure entertainment and for the most part it succeeds despite some missteps and the air of predictability. If you're into monster films I'd suggest giving this one a go.

Video

Presented in a widescreen ratio of 1.85:1 this high-definition transfer is in 1080p 24/fps and has been created using VC-1 compression codec. The DVD's transfer was a little flawed in the sense that image quality suffered at times between sharp image and an image with a lot of noise. This HD transfer seems to handle the image much better than its standard DVD counterpart. In fact it stands head and shoulders above the DVD. This image is brilliant, and still manages to retain the rough aesthetic the filmmaker's were after. The digital camera photography was clearly shot on HD, the detail is solid right down to the minute. Skin tones are handled well, although sometimes they appear a little blown out and the night vision stuff is an obvious exception. Colors are striking and I was surprised that there wasn't any compression related problems, it's a much glossier image than seen on DVD but it doesn't loose any of its gritty raw feel as the shooting style dictates most of that anyway.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 as well as standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes in French and Spanish. I chose to view the film with its English TrueHD track. The DVD included a rather impressive standard 5.1 track, but this Blu-ray disc includes a much better HD track that takes your sound system for one of the most aggressive workouts you'll ever put it through. The sound here feels like it's got much more depth and range. Dialogue is crisp, ambient sounds feel natural and place you within the environment easily, but it's the action set-pieces that truly shine. The monster sequences erupt, grab hold of you and never lets go. This is a fine audio presentation.
Optional subtitles are included in English, English for the hearing impaired, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Extras

Paramount have included quite a few extras on this release including all the supplements from the DVD release plus adding an exclusive extra, the features are an audio commentary, three featurettes, outtakes, deleted scenes, alternate endings and an enhanced viewing mode. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up we've got a feature-length audio commentary with the film's director Matt Reeves, who makes his feature film directing debut with this film, having previously worked with Abrams in television on the series "Felicity" (1998-2001), here he provides a lot of background about the film, it's concept and particularly the production process of shooting hand held the entire time and the logistics of the shoot. He comments on the cast, the special effects and provides a decent glossing over in regards to his involvement and the making of the film. Reeves is non-stop taking the entire course of the film to comment on the production without taking a break. It's a great track to listen to but can be a bit much at times.

Following that is "Special Investigation Mode" which is an enhanced viewing mode with a GPS tracker. This is a feature exclusive to the Blu-ray disc release and this mode allows you to track the monster, humans and military through Manhattan during the course of the film. Occasionally some intel will pop up on your screen. This is a neat feature but to be honest I was bored by it within 20 minutes.

Next up is "Document 01.18.08: The Making of Cloverfield" a featurette that runs for 28 minutes 17 seconds, this is a very good behind-the-scenes look at the filming, we get access into the production's shoot as well as see shot set-ups. The production was kept incredibly secret, and we are able to see the frantic pace of the shoot which lasts a month. Interviews with key cast and crew are also included as they comment on the film, the influences, and also takes a look at other aspects of the production include the way it was shot among other things. This is not a typical EPK and is certainly worth a look.

Next up is "Cloverfield Visual Effects", this featurette runs for 22 minutes 29 seconds and as the title suggests takes us into the development and creation of the film's special effects and the challenges it posed the effects team. The clip takes a look at key scenes from the film and provides an understanding of how they were achieved.

Following that is "I Saw It! Itís Alive! Itís Huge!" featurette which runs for 5 minutes 51 seconds, this clip takes into the design stages of creating the film's monster. I wish this clip was much longer and delved deeper into the development process and various stages of design. For a clip just under 6 minutes it really just covers the basics.

"Clover Fun" are a series of outtakes that run for 3 minutes 57 seconds, and contains the usual stuff, line flubs, missed cues and such. Worth a look but not repeat viewing material.

Also on the disc are a collection of 4 deleted scenes that include optional audio commentary by the film's director Matt Reeves who comments on the scenes and why they were omitted from the final version of the film. The scenes included are:

- "Congrats Rob" runs for 24 seconds and has two girls congratulating Rob on camera at the party.
- "When You're in Japan" runs for 1 minute 25 seconds and is more party footage of Hud trying to get closer to Marlena.
- "I Call That a Date" runs for 45 seconds and is more footage from the subway tunnel.
- "It's Going to Hurt" runs for 58 seconds as Lily tends to Marlena's wounds.

2 alternate endings are included with optional audio commentary by director Matt Reeves as he talks about the differences. The first ending runs for 2 minutes 8 seconds and includes different cut footage at the end of the tape as does the second ending which runs for 2 minutes 25 seconds.

Overall

The Film: C+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A Overall: A-

 


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