Friday, January 18, 2008

What is Cloverfield?

Cloverfield stomps its way into theaters today, January 18, thus ending the six-month long viral ad campaign that has riled up film fans and obsessive-compulsive basement dwellers over just what this film is about. What does the monster look like? What is the significance of the title Cloverfield? Why does J.J. Abrams (of Lost fame) feel the need to incessantly toy with his core audience?

Well, for starters, Cloverfield, through its offbeat and secretive marketing campaign, has blurred the lines between advertising and entertainment and has turned a January film release—typically a dumping ground for Hollywood schlock (I’m looking at you, 27 Dresses)—into a full-blown event. Had this been your typical monster movie, with full-reveals of the creature in the first few trailers to show off the film’s visual effects wizardry, it wouldn’t be on most people’s radar. The idea of another movie about a monster demolishing New York—particularly after 1998’s Americanized Godzilla underwhelmed us all—just doesn’t seem that appealing. But Cloverfield has this shroud of mystery surrounding it that’s pretty compelling.

In addition, using “lost camcorder footage” to tell the story is enticing. Not only does it frame the monster attack as a real-life event, but it allows filmmakers the opportunity to leave out the cumbersome exposition that typically plagues films like this. Rewind ten years to the aforementioned American Godzilla film. It screeches to a halt when the characters are forced to explain why the hell this mutant iguana is trashing Manhattan. Turns out it’s pregnant and looking for a nest. Ugh. Wouldn’t it be cooler if it was just really, really pissed off? Cloverfield is giving us everything we want—a giant, pissed off monster tormenting Manhattanites—without the technobabble and pointless justification.

If you’re like me, you’ve been looking forward to Cloverfield since the mysterious trailer that showed prior to Transformers. But as the mystery reveals itself in all its flickering glory on movie screens across the country, will audiences feel cheated after following this film for so long? Stay tuned for the Wort Report Review of Cloverfield next week.

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