Needless to say, I'm behind the bandwagon on this one, but then again that was entirely intentional. This is one of those movies that drowned in an absolute torrent of media blitz advertising and audience anticipation, mixed with a dressing of excessive hype.
Therefore, I stayed well clear of it - especially with Diary of the Dead coming soon after it, which I wanted to be my first POV-horror experience of 2008 (a year seemingly teeming with the blighters).
I find myself quite polarised by it, half of me digs it, and half of me is rather "meh" about the whole affair. It's set up as a piece of Department of Defence evidence (preceded by the massive Paramount logo). So surely, putting that DoD header on the front of the tape would involve editing - which leaves me wondering, why on earth wouldn't the government lacky cut the 15 minutes of not-that-interesting character stuff? It's got absolutely nothing to do with 'Cloverfield', nothing to do with monsters, or things exploding in anyone's faces.
Clearly it's there for our benefit - we the audience - but of course, this is one of the problems when it comes to POV horror flicks. Seemingly, only The Blair Witch Project has handled the style with the most precision and attention to realism.
What I'm getting at, is there are several instances where I just don't buy the supposed realism. The major set pieces (explosion, lady Liberty's head flying down the street etc) all involve heavy use of CGI, which not only feels smoother than real life, it doesn't look enough like real life when compared to the generally convincing POV footage surrounding these moments.
Even still there are certain times when the POV schtick feels kicked aside to specifically get in some narrative elements. I either thought 'why would anyone record this?' or 'well a tape doesn't do that'. A tape doesn't do what exactly? Well, from my experience with cameras, stopping and starting does not leave a few-second gap between what you just filmed and are now filming. If anything, the camera rewinds about 3 seconds. This of course means we get to see convenient snippets of the two leads to provide character development, but it's not realistic to video camera operation.
You should only see these clips whenever someone rewinds the tape to see something played back (which we don't see of course - unless it's [Rec.], where we actually saw the rewind, which makes absolutely no sense at all), and we do - but the other instances between only some of the 'in-camera edit points' doesn't make sense.
Also, there's a variety of sneaky, hidden edits. Again, you're fiddling with the realism of the POV style - such hidden cuts are really only seen when you're trying to create a sense of a superbly long take (think Rope, or Snake Eyes). Perhaps the average punter wouldn't notice, or care about such things, but as a filmmaker myself who's had many hours with a camera in his hand, these middle-fingers to the technicalities of POV realism just annoy the crap out of me.
Also - while the 'tape glitch' vibe is nowhere near as ridiculous as in either Diary of the Dead or [Rec.] (I've never seen a miniDV tape act like that - ever), it's not entirely missing. The ending, while remaining spoiler free, resorts to juggled patches of images, noises and colours in a way that's not true to the sort of camera the protagonists would have bought at their local Dixons (or where-ever).
Anyway, enough technical-rantings, the film itself - 6/10 stuff I'd have to say.
The over all spectacle is entertaining (even if certain parts seem a bit too daft ... two buildings ... nuff said), and most of the 'POV-panic' keeps you gripped and within-the-moment...but not always. Quippy lines of dialogue here-and-there seem misplaced, helicopters seem to fly way too close to fighter jet bombing runs, and the CGI beasty - while not completely over-exposed - doesn't convince once you've seen it all. Also, how could anyone not see a gigantic, many-many-storeys-tall monster, coming right at them. Just because the camera isn't pointing at it, doesn't mean those in front of it can't see what's behind 'us' (the camera).
Essentially, it's 9/11 with a monster. The times when the film works best is when it's riffing on the infamous terrorist attack, it feels real. It is gripping, and it takes something awful and helps digest it in a more palatable way, if that makes any sense. We in the West, or at least, those in Hollywood, digest disaster through TV and film. You take elements, and filter them out thin enough, so that the people en-mass can come to terms with something huge, one piece at a time.
Anyway, Cloverfield ... definitely worth watching (although those with motion sickness be warned) ... obviously, it doesn't live up to the intense amount of hype that was all around it, and at times it can be just stupid or unconvincing, at other times it can be almost entirely convincing and intense. At the very least it's a more interesting way to have a monster movie, especially after the 'meh-fest' that was the American version of Godzilla.