Film Review: “Cloverfield” * * *
Face it — watching a guy in a zipped-up Godzilla costume knocking down cardboard boxes simply does not work anymore. Even the slick-but-stupid computer-generated version from a decade ago bored viewers to death with its lizard-brained script.
The solution delivered in the bracing, revisionist monster movie “Cloverfield” is to put viewers squarely in the path of a marauding beast and make it as realistic as home video of a child’s birthday party. Shot on what looks like commercial-grade digital video, “Cloverfield” is a first-person account of destruction for the YouTube age.
The central conceit of “Cloverfield” is that this is not a traditional narrative movie — it is a tape discovered in an area “formerly known as Central Park,” documenting the last hours in the lives of several Manhattanites as they watched their city being destroyed. It begins with a surprise party for Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David), who is moving to Japan the next day and recently had a falling out with his girlfriend, Beth (Odette Yustman).
Just as the party gets going, fireballs light up distant buildings in midtown, and reports of an earthquake soon give way to something otherworldly and unstoppable. In the video, shot by a dim partygoer named Hud (T.J. Miller), this creature is only seen in fleeting moments. Hud and friends Rob, Lily (Jessica Lucas) and Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) are too busy running away to focus on their predator.
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