Cloverfield: It’s alive

“I saw it! It’s alive! It’s huge!” These immortal words, spoken by a fleeing New Yorker, raised questions about just what is alive and how huge it actually is. Well, we finally have an answer. The never-ending guessing games are over with last Friday’s release of the much-anticipated science fiction film Cloverfield.

Before production for the movie even began, a teaser trailer was produced and shown before Transformers back in July of 2007. In addition, Paramount Pictures and producer J.J. Abrams, creator of the hit television shows Lost and Alias, decided against including a title with the original trailer, showing its release date instead. The teaser trailer, which depicts a group of people at a going-away party who witness the destruction of New York City, caused quite a stir with its sudden appearance, leading to rampant speculation on the film’s title, plot, and, of course, the monster.

Fascinated, hordes of fans began to analyze and investigate every available nanosecond of the movie; Cloverfield-related videos on YouTube have been viewed well over 10 million times. Theories on the identity of the monster have ranged from Godzilla, the mythical beast Cthulu, to something completely original, and some even believed the movie was a spin-off of Abrams’s TV show Lost. Fueling the Internet frenzy sparked by the trailer was the studio’s viral marketing campaign. Abrams himself stated that various websites had been created as clues about the movie’s plot, beginning a veritable scavenger hunt for information. However, the great unknown, the actual identity of the monster, remained secret, stuffed away from the ever-prying public eye. That is, until now.

The movie begins in ominous fashion, with a rhythmic pounding much like the scene in Jurassic Park right before the T-Rex appears. It sets the mood for a beast of epic proportions, but first we meet the men and women who may or may not be the victims of horrific deaths. Early on we learn just enough about these people so we care about what happens to them. The dialogue is well-written and snappy, and the more-or-less unknown actors do a fine job of exhibiting the main emotions of the film: utter confusion, fear of the unknown, and sadness for all the lives lost.

The movie focuses on six main characters: Rob, the sincere lead who is leaving for Japan; Jason, Rob’s brother; Lily, Jason’s girlfriend; Hud, the cameraman and comic relief; Marlena, Hud’s crush; and Beth, Rob’s crush. We discover that things are complicated between Rob and Beth as Beth leaves the party early to go home to her apartment. Soon after, the party is interrupted by a power failure. As the party gathers on the roof to see what’s going on, a giant explosion rocks Manhattan and the group flees from falling debris. A fierce battle between the military and the beast rages on, and our group encounters both sides of the battle in its journey to rescue Beth, who has fallen and can’t get up, but for good reason. Hud keeps the camera in tow, giving a chilling sense of realism to the viewer.

The effects are absolutely astounding, displaying the destruction of Manhattan to an inconceivable degree. Buildings crumble and explosions vibrate the theater as the military goes all-out in an attempt to save Manhattan. Nothing is safe; even the Statue of Liberty gets a makeover. The film is shot entirely with a handheld camera, resulting in extreme camera movement at times, mostly during scenes of utmost horror. Those who get dizzy or queasy easily may want to exercise caution.

For any fan of monster movies, Cloverfield is a must-see. It displays the elements of the monster-movie genre to perfection while retaining a surprising sense of realism. Boundaries are pushed, but nothing is over the top. The monster looks and acts like a destructive force, reacting angrily to human attack. When people die, they die; there are no touching goodbyes. Every person on screen is scared and confused, each as vulnerable as the next, and those feelings manage to creep into the audience as well. One basic idea passes through everyone’s head: Some thing is attacking the city, and chances of survival are falling with every passing minute.

This is Cloverfield. A gripping tale of human survival that refuses to let go.