No, I didn't see Cloverfield in the theater. It was probably a good thing considering the shakiness of the hand-held camera work. I felt nauseous just watching it at home. I can't imagine how people made it through the movie on the big screen. There will be spoilers in this so if you haven't seen it and you don't want to be spoiled, stop reading now.
OK. Let's talk about this thing. I've been looking forward to Cloverfield since the teasers started coming out last year. Unfortunately, my husband and I just didn't get the chance to see it on the big screen. However, friends of ours saw it and said the graphics were really nauseating. I completely agree. I understand why they used a hand-cam for the movie but I really think it detracted more than it added anything to the film as a whole. Sure, you got the "in the midst of the battle" feeling...but you couldn't SEE anything half the time. It was just a jumble of pictures while the main characters were running. The only time the camera was still enough to see anything was when the characters were standing or sitting still, which wasn't very often. I think it might have been a bit better if they had mixed steady-cam shots with the hand-cam shots. Show an outside view while the characters were running but then switch back to the home video when they are sitting around talking. Not only would it have made the movie easier to watch but we would have been able to keep track of the characters better.
My next problem with it was how the monster was handled. In the DVD extras as well as in many interviews, J.J. Abrams kept talking about Godzilla and how he wanted to make an iconic monster for America. I don't think he's ever seen a Godzilla movie. Those movies focused on the monster as well as the humans. Not to mention that, since Godzilla was created thanks to some hydrogen bomb testing, there are quite a very environmental messages in there too. In Cloverfield, we learn nothing about the monster. We don't even know where it came from! According to the interview with Abrams, the monster is a newborn. There isn't anything in the movie to indicate this nor is there any explanation for the parasite-type creatures that the monster drops. So that negates classifying this as a "monster movie." The monster is only there to act as a catalyst to move the human characters into motion.
Ah, the humans. There's Rob (the guy going to Japan), Hud (Rob's best friend and the cameraman for the movie), Beth (Rob's sorta-girlfriend), Jason (Rob's brother), Lily (Rob's girlfriend) and Marlena (Lily's friend). At no point in time are we compelled to feel anything about most of these characters. Rob is a douche and he tries to make up for it by trying to save Beth after treating her like crap. We don't learn a whole lot about Hud, beyond the fact that he hits on women a lot, because he's generally behind the camera. Jason kicks the bucket early on, leaving Lily to hold the group of friends together. Poor Marlena got the short end of the stick since she wasn't even supposed to be at the farewell party for Rob in the first place. Not only did I not care about these characters, I was actually rooting for their death by the middle of the movie. There was no real emotion behind any of their actions. The only reason Rob wanted to save Beth was because after having sex with her then not contacting her for two weeks, she decided to move onto another relationship when *BAM!* Rob realized he loves Beth. Yeah, Rob, you didn't love her until she found a new man. Douche.
And that is the entire plot of the movie. Rob and his friends try to rescue a girl that he realizes, in the middle of a monster attack, that he loves. I don't even believe that he loved her. I believe that he felt badly about the way he treated her. I believe that he cared for her a bit. However, I mostly believe that the only reason he wanted to save her was to save himself from being the big dickwad of the movie. Too late, Rob.
After all of this, I can't say that it was a bad movie. It just wasn't a good movie. It definitely wasn't a good monster movie. If Abrams was aiming to give the American audience an iconic monster to identify with, he failed miserably. Yes, the monster was cool looking but there was nothing about it for us to identify with. There was nothing to make the monster endearing to us. Nothing to make us want to buy a big plushie Cloverfield monster for our bedroom. There are rumors that there will be a sequel. I can only pray that they do a better job than they did with the original.