Cloverfield (2008)

Rated: PG-13
Length: 84 minutes
Grade: BC?C=C
Budget: $25 million
Box Office: $80 million U.S., $88 million Intl.

Directed by: Matt Reeves, who has directed a handful of TV show episodes. But the key here is that the producer is JJ Abrams, the maker of Lost and Alias.
Written by: Drew Goddard, who is a writer for Lost, Alias, Angel, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Starring: Mike Vogel, Michael Stahl-David, Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, TJ Miller, and Odette Yustman.

On the eve of his departure for Japan (hint, hint), Rob’s party is interrupted by an attack on New York City from an unknown creature. Separated from his true love, Rob and a group of friends try to find her as they try to escape Manhattan alive.

Entertainment Value: B
It would have been an A, except that the ending was so disappointing. Here’s the key. If you love JJ Abrams’s style, you’ll love this. Think of it as Godzilla meets Lost told in the style of the Blair Witch Project. I was frustrated by the lack of explanation of anything and the disappointment with things getting resolved, which is the same reason we don’t watch his hit TV show either. But it certainly does what it tries to do, make an entertaining action-immersion film.

Superficial Content: C
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity B, Violence C, Language C
There’s gore and gruesome activity here, but it’s nothing you couldn’t easily show on network television. Likewise, the language here is rightly PG-13, but probably not in need of much editing to make broadcast standards. There is one opening scene in a bedroom where nothing is shown, but prior sexual activity is implied. And the movie starts with a party scene and people drinking.

Significant Content: ?
What lesson could possibly be drawn here? It’s just not that sort of movie. Scary monsters are scary? Living through a tragedy feels very different from the news coverage you’re likely to see about it.

Artistic/Thought Value: C
Very, very, clever, but perhaps too much. The real problem here is that it never quite delivers, plus, as I said, I despised the ending. Nonetheless, the style of filmmaking here does a very good job of putting you in the frame of mind of being these people. At the same time, I kept being reminded of the implausibility of the notion that anyone would actually film ALL OF THIS while living through it precisely because of the device of showing it through that camera.

Discussion Questions:
~How do you get your information on major breaking news events? Does that information seem reliable?
~Why do you think this movie ended the way it did?
~Did your experience of this movie help you have any understanding of what it might have been like to live through 9/11 in New York City?
~Compare the use of the Statue of Liberty in this movie and your reaction to it with the use in other movies, such as Planet of the Apes, Escape from New York, Independence Day, AI, and The Day After Tomorrow. Why is the Statue of Liberty so powerful as a symbol? What does it mean to you?
~Does processing fear in movies like this help you handle fear and anxiety in ordinary life?

Overall Grade: C
I’m sure there are a thousand blogs and dozens of insider clues to find in the movie, but I just don’t care enough to go back and look for them. This was fine to watch for 75 minutes (without credits), but it didn’t deliver nearly as well as I had hoped it would.

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