“…a very visceral experience that makes you feel like you are really part of the action.”
Last night I had a hankerin’ for a good old fashioned monster movie. Instead of going to one of the classics like Godzilla or King Kong, I went to my personal favourite monster movie, Cloverfield. For those who don’t know, Cloverfield is about, well it’s about a monster that attacks New York. But it does something different with the genre, that I think is great. It uses the medium of “found footage” style filming to make the disaster very personal and perspective based. What it gives you is a very visceral experience that makes you feel like you are really part of the action.
Cloverfield is told from the perspective of a group of friends who were having a party when a monster first attacks. This is one of my issues with the movie. The first 20 minutes there is no monster, only a plethora of wealthy 20-somethings dealing with problems that would be commonplace on an episode of 90210. I personally, even being close to the characters ages, couldn’t relate to any problems they were having because to other people their problems aren’t problems. This issue I had with the movie is then quickly abolished when the monster attacks, because at that point it doesn’t matter who fucked who last week, you just have to stay alive. The camera is “operated” by the main character, Rob’s, friend Hud, who before the attack was filming party attendees wishing Rob good luck with his new job in Japan. The film is intercut with clips of Rob’s birthday, the year before which he spent with his then girlfriend. Now, I’m young. When Cloverfield came out I was only about 10, so I don’t have a firm grasp of what technology was like back then apart from my Playstation 2. But it doesn’t make sense to me that even though the camera was using an SD card, the recording behaved like a tape only recording over previous footage in real time. Again, I don’t have a firm grasp of how shit worked back then and I could be completely wrong, but I like to think that someone in the military, after finding the SD card, intentionally edited the footage to include flashbacks to build a stronger narrative. Because otherwise I will just chalk it up to an error in the film. A few more issues I had with the film were some of the effects, which look kind of outdated now, and the fact that the camera would magically change resolutions during outdoor and action scenes. But overall, I like the movie. It is very intense, as well as funny at times with Hud providing comedic relief. I think that Cloverfield as a movie is a very interesting take on the monster movie genre providing, like I said before, a very interesting single perspective of a disaster, and I honestly think that Cloverfield is one of the best found footage films I have ever seen.
But those reasons are not why I hold cloverfield in such high regard. Though I like the movie by itself, there is something else that makes the movie great and that is the ARG. An ARG (or Alternate Reality Game) is a type of very interactive marketing campaign that some companies, mainly Bad Robot, like to set up for their projects. Now as I mentioned before I was just a little boy when Cloverfield came out so I knew nothing of the expansive research many people on the internet were doing, but when I found out about it later in life it made my love of cloverfield grow immensely. For those who are interested, there is a very brief rundown of the ARG here (warning this page contains spoilers for the movie itself), but if you want more detailed information I would go to the Cloverfield Wiki here. Suffice it to say that the game had everything from fake websites from Japanese based oil drilling companies, to myspace pages for most of the characters in the movie. The ARG really told it’s own story separate to Cloverfield, but I love it so much because it does a lot to build the universe in which movie takes place. I’m not going to explain every piece of the ARG here because I wouldn’t even come close to doing it justice, but if you are interested go to the links I provided and check it out for yourself.
This is why Cloverfield holds a special place in my heart. Not only is it an enjoyable movie, but the work put into it and the ARG surrounding it really makes you realize that it was a passion project. No movie yet has come close to what I assume it was like to take part in the original Cloverfield ARG, because I don’t think anyone is really trying. Just like no one is trying to be the next Elvis or Michael Jackson. Cloverfield is a special case, because I feel I have to give it two ratings, one for the movie itself and then one for the whole experience.
I give Cloverfield (just the movie) a B
But I give Cloverfield (the experience) an A
I also wanted to point out that there is in fact a “blood relative” to Cloverfield coming out in March called 10 Cloverfield Lane, and yes there is an ARG for that as well. It has been going on for almost two months and has been a blast to follow. If you are interested in checking out all that has been discovered this time around, I would recommend checking this site, and scrolling down to the post about the 10 Cloverfield Lane trailer. Happy hunting.