The best news about the new Cloverfield DVD is that you can pause it whenever you want in case -- ya know -- halfway through you feel a little motion sickness. It's been touted as "The Blair Witch Project meets Godzilla" or "a monster movie for the You Tube generation," but when it was all said and done Cloverfield turned out to be an original, captivating piece of filmmaking that took risks where other films of the genre would've played it safe. The initial "Holy crap, what is this movie!" is what attracted people opening weekend, when Cloverfield grossed a whopping $46 million before dropping off an equally-as-whopping 68% in box office totals the following weekend.
Was it the hand-held shakiness that kept people from seeing it ... and then seeing it again? Or was it because of the unusual storytelling techniques? Perhaps, in the end, folks simply enjoyed chasing the film through viral sites more than they did actually sitting down to watch it in a theater. Whatever the case may be, I'd definitely recommend picking up Cloverfield on DVD -- not only because it's much easier to deal with camera shakiness from your own, comfortable living room, but also because the special features truly add to the experience in a very positive way.
Told through the lens of a personal video camera, Cloverfield follows one group of twenty-somethings as they venture out across New York City to rescue one of their own while something very large and very dangerous is attacking their city. Unlike other monster movies, Cloverfield is told specifically from the point of view of whomever is holding the camera (throughout most of the film, it's Hud, as played by T.J. Miller). There's no cutaway to some island off the coast of Asia where a doctor feverishly tries to explain the monster's origins to some dopey American scientist -- and there's no "we've figured out its weakness" scene toward the end where our heroic leads somehow take down the beast with a can of pepper spray and a copy of Penthouse.
It's often the "reality" of the scene that makes Cloverfield so damn fun, scary and exhilarating to watch. Not only does this style of filmmaking cut down the budget, but it's also easier to place yourself into the same situation; out on the street as mass chaos ensues. A party scene early on sets up all our characters in a way that makes them real people with real emotions and real motivations. Rob is a guy who slept with his best friend once, has completely fallen in love with her, and is now in a place where he knows she's hurt somewhere -- alone, about to die -- and he needs to find her. We can relate to these people; they're not weird, disjointed Hollywood characters -- they're real people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I had an absolute ball watching these special features -- the best of which are Document 1.18.08: The Making of Cloverfield and Cloverfield Visual Effects. The latter is pretty self-explanatory; basically, it's a brief documentary on how all the visual effects in the film came together. How did they make it look like all of NYC was under attack ... with military and mass evacuations ... for, like, the tiniest budget ever? The Making of Cloverfield doc takes you through the entire film -- from one location to the next -- as they show you what it took to film each scene. One of my favorite parts came in watching them during the party scene; how all that music and background noise was added in later and, while they were shooting, Hud is yelling over a crowd that isn't saying a word. Hilarious stuff. It was also kinda funny to watch them going to great lengths to hide information (specifically the title) from, well, folks like us. When they were shooting in New York City, they decided to call the film "Cheese" for those shoots and laughed as the rumor that the film was now called "Cheese" spread like wildfire across the internet.
Also included on the single disk (don't let that deter you; it's a packed single disk) are a few deleted scenes and a gag reel that don't add much. About those two alternate endings: Picture the original ending, except one has the two running through a tunnel instead of sitting on a ferris wheel, and the other shows a glimpse of someone finding the camera under all the dirt and rock. Neither dramatically changes the ending of the film -- it's not like, in one ending, we find out Rob was really the monster's father. (Hmm, sequel ideas???)
Visually, the film looks great. Of course, you have the shaky-cam stuff that will definitely upset some folks; though keep in mind, it gets easier to deal with once you're past the party scene. The great thing about DVD is that you can also pause it and walk around the room, shake yourself out of it. I also noticed the audio (in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround) sounded excellent, which was an additional plus. There's also a commentary from director Matt Reeves -- and it's funny, because part of me enjoys people talking about this film more than the film itself. Not sure if I'm alone in that camp.
Essentially, Cloverfield is a really good time; a film that deserves more love than it received and one that should be praised for its creative ways. Don't go into it expecting the be all, end all, but relax yourself and enjoy the film for what it is: a kick ass monster movie that's real and harsh and scary and hot and ... just go rent it.