It's 2 am on Friday, 1/18/08, and it will surprise no one that's ever met me that I just spent the previous 99 minutes at the midnight viewing of CLOVERFIELD. For the record, THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS is still the best American made giant monster movie ever.
CLOVERFIELD loses on a technicality because really, it's not a giant monster movie. It's a love story that has a giant monster in it. And even in that category, it only rates second. Top honors still go to the original KING KONG. Had I known that CLOVERFIELD was going to spend so much screen time on its soap opera, I'd be asleep right now. I definitely would have seen CLOVERFIELD in a theatre someday - and enjoyed it - but I wouldn't have pumped my pasty carcass full of Mountain Dew so I could do it NOW NOW NOW.
The thing that's going to keep CLOVERFIELD alive in the hearts and minds of basement dwelling fanboys forever is what the movie doesn't show you. Which is hardly anything. There is no backstory. There is no explanation for or of anything. And when it comes to giant monsters, there's always a reason. Your bomb/mineshaft/volcano/loud rock music disturbed my eternal slumber. You stole my baby/egg/girlfriend/sacred relic/twin fairies. Your alien invasion/robot version of me is not welcome here.
In CLOVERFIELD, the monster attacks New York and everybody dies, and in between those two events, a bunch of yuppie hipsters try to save their friend and not get eaten along the way in an escalating series of what-the-#$%@! moments. That's pretty much all that happens and since the whole thing is POV of people caught in the thick of it, that's all you're told. But the Interweb is packed to bursting with backstory, including a lot of the theories I posited myself yesterday. Like the whole Slusho thing - you see it on that one guy's t-shirt and that is it. But online, there's plenty of support for a veritable cornucopia of explanations. In fact, everything about the film is open to a million theories, each one as valid as the one before it. It's a college film professor's wet dream.
I also want to be on record as stating unequivocally that in any city-crushing smackdown, GODZILLA would slap CLOVERFIELD's ass silly and take it's lunch money. The CLOVERFIELD monster is just not that impressive. It's cool and all, but it suffers from that same, too prevalent lanky-armed, barrel-chested, skinny-waisted, pasty-skinned character design that you can see in INDEPENDENCE DAY, PUMPKINHEAD, THE CAVE, WAR OF THE WORLDS (the Tom Cruise one) and dozens of other contemporary monster flicks. If you're supposed to be big enough to knock over a building, look the part. I like my giant monsters with some meat on their bones. Gangly, shaven sea gibbons just don't pack that punch. That fake whale monster fan art? Much better.
All in all, see CLOVERFIELD. It's a good popcorn thrill ride.
Then go buy THE HOST on DVD. It's a better movie.