This year marks the 75th anniversary of the original King Kong film, the 50th anniversary of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, and the 25th anniversary of Jaws 3-D. Mix them together and stir in a camcorder and you’ve got the first draft of Cloverfield.
King Kong is, of course, a love story; and so is Cloverfield. The creature wreaking havoc in New York is but a monstrous and very expensive macguffin providing the framework for the storyline, a traditional boy meets/loses girl. A very effective macguffin, it has to be said.
Attack of etc concerns a large, unhappy creature; as does Cloverfield. The film contains a great deal of attacking, and I’m sure you’ve seen the clip in which the head of the Statue of Liberty – a tall glum female – splats various residents as it bounces to a halt in a city street.
Jaws 3-D gave people nausea from 3D glasses; Cloverfield does ditto from authentic handheld camerawork.
There are naturally many differences. Cloverfield contains none of King Kong’s biplanes on strings. The large creature is always big, unlike Attack of etc or indeed the kitten from The Goodies or the sheepdog in Digby, the Biggest Dog in the World. And unlike Jaws 3-D, Cloverfield is not rubbish.
It’s exceedingly well-made. The camcorder viewpoint is maintained from the first frame until the start of the closing credits; there’s no film score, lots of odd jump cuts, poor framing, etc. And the effects fit seamlessly – I’d really like to see some of the original footage just to see how they mangled it.
Apparently some critics proclaimed that using unknown actors was a big mistake. Idiots. It was essential to keep the truthiness of the film. And, really, the only effects of casting Tom Cruise or some other loon would be to double the budget and ruin the film.
On the down side, there were a couple of dodgy product NOKIA placements and a general implausibility of certain events (leaving aside the whole creature thing).
But overall, recommended. J. J. Abrams wisely chose Kong, Woman and D as his 25-year influences for Cloverfield: 1933 also brought us Duck Soup, 1958 South Pacific and 1983 National Lampoon’s Vacation. I dread to think what his mash-up of those three would be like. The new Star Trek film, probably.
Avaragado’s rating: four tubs of St Ivel Gold