NOTE: This post contains SPOILERS, so if you haven’t seen Cloverfield and you plan to do so, you should probably skip it, though your life will be the poorer for it.
After months of fervid speculation in some of the shadier corners of the Intertubes, the Cloverfield monster was finally revealed in all of its 20-story-tall, dragged-its-ass-from-the-sea glory when the movie opened nationwide last Friday. Now it’s not like the Kamper to pile on, but there are a few questions I’m just dying to ask of screenwriter Drew Goddard and producer J.J. Abrams. Here goes.
These are the characters? Really? Come on, really? You’ve got all of Manhattan to choose from, and these are the six you went with — Rob, Jason, Hud, Lily, Marlena, and Beth, a bunch of 20-something yuppies? And are you sure you want to have the plot revolve around Rob’s attempt to rescue his skinny, beautiful, staggeringly wealthy girlfriend from her apartment overlooking Central Park? Because I think we’re supposed to feel something approximating sadness as your characters are crushed, chewed, rent, flayed, infected, and exploded. I’m pretty sure that relief bordering on sadistic glee wasn’t what you were going for.
To call these characters narcissistic is an insult to Narcissus. To call them vapid is an insult to Vapidus. How monumental is their self regard? Allow me to elaborate.
Against absurd odds (and by literally walking directly beneath said Cloverfield monster), our intrepid, upwardly-mobile, impeccably outfitted urban adventurers actually make it to the girlfriend’s apartment building, which has collapsed against the building beside it, like a domino that just didn’t quite make it all the way over. So they climb to the top of the intact building, then jump onto the roof of the collapsed building, then climb down into the collapsed building, then find Beth’s apartment, then find Beth, then pull a piece of rebar out of Beth’s chest (who does not immediately bleed to death), then kill a Cloverfield Junior in the hallway, and then go back out the way they came in. None of which is the strange part. No, the strange part is that it never enters any of their heads to search around a little bit in the collapsed 40 story building to, oh, I don’t know, determine if there are any more survivors in the vicinity who might need rescuing or perhaps would appreciate having a piece of rebar pulled from their chests. Nope, these youngsters went into the building for Beth, they found her, and they left. Heckuva job, guys.
Then, after they survive the helicopter crash (what? You got a problem with them just walking away from a helicopter crash?), Hud drags Rob and Beth from the wreckage (continuing to film the entire time, by the way), but once they’re free not one of them goes back for or indeed ever mentions the pilot or the other soldier who were in the helicopter with them. The three of them just go on their merry way. All I’ve got to say is that they’d better not have one of those yellow ribbons on their car, because that’s not what the Kamper would call supporting the troops.
And just when you think their self-regard could not possibly deepen, in the film’s final moments the characters display a level of egocentricity that is astounding in its purity. Crouched under a bridge, waiting for their ultimate fate, Rob grabs the camera and speaks directly into it, giving his final testimony, his great Oh, the Humanity moment. And what he says is, “My name is Robert Hawkins. Seven hours ago, some ‘thing’ attacked the city. Whatever it was, it killed my brother, Jason Hawkins, it killed my best friend, Hudson Platt, and it killed my other friend, Marlena. Plus many others.” Plus many others?! Plus many others?! Cloverfield just flattened half of Manhattan! It was 9/11 times 100, and that’s what you’ve got to say? Dude, that is so uncool.
Look, what Cloverfield did was wrong, there’s no doubt about that, but all I’m saying is that I understand.
Photo: Several hours ago, this horrible thing came out of the sea and killed many, many innocent people — plus six who clearly deserved it.
Photo Credit: fan art from /film.com