(Originally posted on 2/17/2008 on Writingscape V2.0)
Cloverfield isn’t really a monster movie.
Oh, it has an awesome monster, just what I (a connoisseur of movie monstrosities) wanted to see. Loved it! Eye candy for moi. But the story isn’t about Said Monster, as much as it is about a few young people (douche bag Rob, shallow ice queen Marlena, and lazy-ass loser Hudson) who are forced to take a horrible detour in their perfect little lives, and in doing so, they outgrow being a douche bag, shallow ice queen, and lazy-ass loser. A big change.
A member of my critique group made the comment (and I paraphrase): “C’mon. Would you carry around that camera for (how ever many) hours? I wouldn’t. You wouldn’t either.” Well, that isn’t the question to ask. The proper question is would the character (Hudson) carry the thing around for all those hours instead of just getting the hell out of Dodge. And the answer is YES.
He started out lazy as crap, didn’t want the little bit of responsibility involved with being in charge of a camera, not even for a friend, but once he realized how important he felt documenting the monster-fest, once he felt the adrenalin a person does when they abruptly find their calling, only an Act of God was going to get that camera out of his hand. This was his way of NO LONGER BEING A LOSER. Even the unattainable girl of his dreams began respecting him while he was filming. Hud putting the camera down? No way in hell.
(Newbie writers out there, take note. It’s not about you. It’s about what your character would think and do as you’ve presented him. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)
My favorite scene? Squatting on the sidewalk as the military, on foot, engages the creature on the street right in front of you. Absolutely believable. You didn’t know if you were going to get accidentally hit by a flaming mortar round, slammed by a flying object, or stepped on. If you stayed still, you were screwed; if you moved, you were screwed. Awesome monster-in-your-face moment. And there was no cheese; if you want some “Godzilla versus Tokyo,” hang around and listen to the “Cloverfield Overture” during the ending credits. LOL! Nice.
Dear Movie Critic #1: You were offended by skyscrapers in NYC falling, because it was too reminiscent of 9-11. So… when a monster comes careening into Manhattan, just what do you think he’s gonna knock down? A strip mall? That’s all Manhattan is—skyscrapers!
Dear Movie Critic #2: True, we didn’t get as much development of these characters as we’re used to—because it was a personal recording on a camcorder that had to be turned on and off to save the battery. All we were going to get were the key moments. Think about it.
Dear Movie Critic #3: You’re absolutely right. There were only “thin, beautiful 20-somethings” involved, without an Ordinary Joe in sight. That fact was a little disappointing. But then I start thinking about someone with my wide load trying to hoof it up 60 flights of stairs to that roof, in the time allotted, and well… I’m just sayin’. Somebody would’ve been sh!t out of luck.