"Cloverfield" Blu-ray Review
June 02, 2008 by Zach Demeter
The initial trailer for Cloverfield told viewers next to nothing about what to expect from the production. A New York Party interrupted by a sudden disruption outside and that’s all we had go on, officially, for months. The film remained nameless for most of its production, going by various titles, the most popular of which was “Cheese”, and in general everything was shrouded in secrecy about what Cloverfield was. Unfortunately like every “secret” film, details about the monster, including descriptions and pictures, leaked out so those who were left in the dark for most of the picture were now being bombarded with the films big “secret.” Even knowing what was in Cloverfield before seeing it didn’t matter, however—with J. J. Abram’s name tagged to it, it’s hard not to want to see it.
During a farewell party for Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David) a disaster strikes New York City. Shaking the very foundation of the building, Hawkins and his party mates rush to the roof to see what caused the disruption. The view they get takes their breath away as they see New York City falling before their eyes with flying debris and toppling buildings. It isn’t long before the entire building is evacuated and they’re on the streets, running for their lives.
I was going to fault Paramount for not writing much of a description on the back of the box, but after struggling to write the above paragraph, I can see why they didn’t throw anything in. It’s hard to surmise the movie in any kind of catchy sounding paragraph, as, quite simply, it’s a simple story that has some superb execution.
I knew I wanted to see the film based on Abram’s involvement alone, but I never made any real effort to keep up with the news or trailers released. By the time it reached theaters I didn’t realize it was already January and after hearing about how the film gave people serious cases of motion sickness, I opted to stay away from the theatrical release for Cloverfield. I was happy to see it got a home video release so soon, however, as even though I’m a wuss for not wanting to brave throwing up in a theater, I really did want to see what the film had to offer—if only for the unique view point the film was shot from.
Our main group of characters consists of Rob, his brother Jason (Mike Vogel), Rob’s friend Hud (T.J. Miller), Jason’s girlfriend Lily Ford (Jessica Lucas) and Lily’s friend Marlena Diamond (Lizzy Caplan). The whole film is told through the viewpoint of Hud’s camera, who had recording duty at Rob’s party. Hud keep’s up this job through the entire seven hour onslaught of New York City, recording every bit that he and the group sees, including some rather terrifying encounters with the monsters.
While I was a bit suspicious about the entire film being done in hand held, it quickly became one of my favorite things about the film. I can’t imagine the film being as appealing as it was if this was all done with a steady cam, as part of what makes the film so great is how real it feels. Nothing feels staged, which must have been a remarkably hard thing to do try to avoid while setting the “spontaneous” shots that we get in the film. In particular the underground tunnel sequences looked especially difficult to film with the buggy creatures flying everywhere.
Another element of the film that I greatly appreciated was the humor. I loved the monster movie horror that was thrown in, but the humor is what really kept me entertained. Hud generated the majority of the laughs, making quips about flaming homeless people and other comments that were just hilarious. On top of the humor was a healthy amount of drama and it surprised me just how well everything meshed together here, although with Lost being one of Abram’s biggest successes, I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised.
Mind you Abram’s was only a producer on the film, with writer Drew Goddard and director Matt Reeves deserving most of the credit when it comes to talking about the majority of the film. It was such a supremely crafted film overall that I don’t want to credit just one man—the writer, director, producer and everyone of the actors really made the film what it was. Oddly enough I didn’t recognize a single one of the actors, although I’d seen Michael Stahl-David in the short lived The Black Donnellys show (comparing shots of him from that show and Cloverfield, however, don’t reveal much similarity), I had never seen any of the other actors and actresses before. I’ve learned not to care who’s in films as star power means nothing and I honestly think going with A-listers would’ve made the film feel less real.
When images of the monster leaked out online, I was rather disappointed. I had hoped that the entire film would be a mystery as to what was destroying the city, as I didn’t think anything as simple as a monster or some kind of nuclear attack would suffice for the big mystery surrounding the film. Knowing that it was a monster movie before going in, however, did get me psyched for it and I am eternally grateful that the film never describes what the monster is or where he came from. There’s no time set aside for explanation and I absolutely love it like that—when you sit down and start explaining why something’s happening, you can end up getting stupid answers (like the recent remake of The Invasion), so I’d rather they just leave it out entirely. Of course you can find all of the monsters information online, such as he came from the ocean and is actually a baby (holy crap), but to throw this into the film really wouldn’t have been too convenient and would’ve just felt shoehorned.
It’s not something you noticed too much at first due to the first act being a party, but there isn’t a single piece of music for the film. There’s some hotel lobby music but that’s about it; obviously you can’t throw music into a film like this, but I just thought it was worth noting that except for the giant monster attacking New York, there’s nothing about this that couldn’t be thought of as an actual documentary of sorts.
Cloverfield is really one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen and definitely one of my favorite “monster” movies. Everything was pulled off without flaw in this film and it was actually one of few films where I wanted to watch it again right as it finished. Be sure to check this film out, it’s well worth your time and money. Highly Recommended.
Cloverfield arrives in a standard Blu-ray case with a plastic seal on the side designing that this is “Project Cloverfield” and that it’s “Property of the U.S. Government.” Disc art is the usual matte gray covering, although it’s all flecked and has “tears” going through it to give it some more character. An insert is included assuring us that the disc is made under the “highest quality” conditions and to keep your player up-to-date. Menus are nearly identical to the DVD release, only with pop-up menus rather than completely separate areas for the extras, chapter selects and set up options.
Now we can go into the technical aspects of the film. I was impressed both visually and aurally by the DVD transfer, so when the Blu-ray edition was announced, I was eager to see what it could do. While the image is certainly sharper, it also shows off some of the defects of the filming process. The image is often overly smooth without any real detail popping out, but when you take into account the subject matter of the film and how it was shot, you can’t really knock it for a transfer that’s less than stellar.
What it lacks in the video department it more than made up for in the audio department. The thunderous roars and booming into the film are even more hard-hitting than before and the Dolby TrueHD track is simply astonishing to hear. It’s a real treat to immerse yourself in this world for the scant run time and this Blu-ray edition allows you to do that in ways the DVD couldn’t. Well, maybe that’s a bit overblown, but the Blu-ray edition is definitely technically superior in every way. Hell, even the extras are in HD! Speaking of extras…
First on the special feature docket we have “Document of 1.18.08: The Making of Cloverfield” (28:16), which, as it states, is our making-of documentary. The entire history of the film is packed into here, as well as plenty of on-set footage with the cast and crew, all of which are having a great time in between the shouts of “No one can talk about this!” and “No cameras!” Next is “Cloverfield Visual Effects” (22:28) which digs into the visual elements of the film, and all of the CGI implemented into the film. Honestly I didn’t realize so much had been tossed in there in terms of cityscape and I’m just really impressed by the work done on this film the more I watch and read about it.
The rest of the extras here are all rather brief. “I Saw It! It's Alive! It's Huge!” (5:50) talks about the designing of the monster, “Clover Fun” (3:56) is a blooper reel that seemingly ends out of nowhere and a set of four deleted scenes (3:32) range from extended dialogue to very short scenes that were removed (they all have commentary by director Matt Reeves, who begins the first deleted scene by saying “Here’s another…”, so either there’s stuff that wasn’t included here or he recorded these in a different order than what we get on the DVD). Alternate endings, two total, are included as well and run 4:33. These have identical first half’s to them, with the endings being the only variant and showing different footage of Beth and Rob. Finally there’s an easter egg, “Rack em' and pack em, Phantom in 15” (1:53) which has the cast and crew repeating that line over and over again—quite hilarious. What I don’t get is the press release stated that there were “multiple eastereggs” but that’s the only one I found. Of course I do suck at finding them, so there could be more…
And that’s it…wait, no it’s not! I forgot the best part: the director’s commentary. If you weren’t satisfied by the lengthy amount of standard extras we get here, then kick back and get ready to listen to Matt Reeve’s commentary for Cloverfield. It’s clear the man has nothing but love for everyone and everything for being able to make this movie and he points out elements that were hard to get to work and thing’s that just didn’t work right at all. It’s a very lighthearted and informative track and one that fans are going to love listening to.
Overall Cloverfield was a simply amazing movie. While you may be like me and wonder how a camera lasts seven hours without being recharged (though we did see transitions which obviously mean the camera was off, so it could have had a fresh battery swap at some point) or even find it humorous that the camera operator in the film, Hud, has the same name as the acronym for the Head Up Display interface for airplanes and the like, but even if you aren’t as picky or notice geeky things like me, Cloverfield is simply entertainment at its finest. Those who get motion sick easily may need to take some Dramamine before hand, but it’ll be worth it—you’ve never seen a monster movie like Cloverfield and this DVD not only gives us a solid technical presentation but also a great overall special features package as well. Highly Recommended.
Cloverfield arrives on DVD on June 3rd.
Portions of this review have been duplicated from the DVD review.