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Godzilla for YouTube generation

10 Comments
By Chris Betros

Audiences going to see “Cloverfield” are warned beforehand that if they have a weak heart, high blood pressure, suffer motion sickness or are pregnant, they better not see the movie. That’s one of the many gimmicks accompanying the monster movie released in Japan as “Hakaisha” (Destroyer).

Produced by JJ Abrams and directed by Matt Reeves, “Cloverfield” stars relative unknowns Michael Stahl-David and Lizzy Caplan and has been a big hit since its U.S. release in January. It has been described as anything from “Blair Witch Project meets Godzilla” to “Godzilla for the YouTube generation.”

Told from the point of view of a motormouth holding a shaking camcorder, “Cloverfield” (the title is the military designation for the area formerly known as Central Park) deals with the destruction of New York by a mostly unseen and unexplained monster. The posters for the movie leave no doubt that it is an allegory for 9/11 in much the same way Godzilla was meant to be an allegory for the damage inflicted on Japan by the atom bomb.

“We wanted to find a way to speak to the anxiety that American people feel after 9/11,” said Reeves. “The film evokes feelings of what it would be like to have your entire life turned upside down, to suddenly put you in the middle of something horrific going on that you don’t understand, but to let you approach those feelings in a safe way.” Script writer Drew Goddard added that “Cloverfield” is not so much a metaphor for 9/11 as a study in “how we handle crises as individuals and how we reevaluate our priorities in such situations.”

Abrams said the idea for “Cloverfield” first came to him when he was in Japan in 2006 promoting “Mission: Impossible 3.” “I’d been obsessed with Godzilla ever since I was a kid and when I was here, I took my 8-year-old son to a toy store and saw figurines of Godzilla and other monsters. My son reacted to them as I used to. So I thought how it would be great to make an old-style monster movie in the spirit of Godzilla but make it relevant to our times. Then I decided to combine it with another Japanese invention – the handycam. The entire movie is a great love letter to that part of Japanese culture.”

The decision to use a camcorder not only saved filmmakers a lot of money, but makes the film more frightening, said Abrams. “First of all, these days, there is always someone with a camera filming disasters or just documenting their lives. It can be horrifying or funny, but most importantly, it feels real when you observe an event through a camcorder. Secondly, like the great horror movies, you are more afraid of the unseen. It’s like the shark in ‘Jaws’ or the creature in ‘Alien.’ Your imagination fills in the blanks.”

The biggest challenge for filmmakers was keeping the project under wraps. The buzz started last summer when theaters showed mysterious untitled trailers of the film before “Transformers.” There were no press releases or media previews. “The idea was to sneak up on people, but that’s hard to do in this age of multimedia,” admitted Abrams. “We knew we couldn’t keep it a complete secret. No matter what we do, someone always gets a copy out online. It’s frustrating. I worked on a script for a Superman movie for two years. It got leaked online and bad reviews poured in. That scared the studio and the movie fell apart. Scripts aren’t meant to be shown to the public. But I can tell you one thing. ‘Cloverfield’ should definitely be seen on the big screen, not on your computer.”

© Japan Today

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10 Comments
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“he was in Japan in 2006 promoting Mission: Impossible 3"

Now that was a just a toilet movie, so is this going to be mre of the same?

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It did not make the movie more frightening to use a camcorder. Quite contrary, it made the movie 'worse.' As I said before I had to leave the movie halfway over because I just could not stand the shaky movements. I was very close to losing my lunch. I tried hard, by closing my eyes, looking away, but it was just too much.

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Wow! 1500 Yen a piece to see a film school assignment quality film...

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Sounds stupid to me.

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I liked Cloverfield.

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they know how to jiggle camera, but they need to learn how to get a guy act in a suit. Lets hope Toho decides to put on another Godzilla.

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In my opinion, it is a poorly made movie with amateur acting, no plot to speak of, but with some cool special effects. Think "excitement without direction," and you have Cloverfield. If your plan for the day is to watch paint dry, this might be a slightly better option.

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Not only is this movie supposed to be of poor quality, the DVD is on sale in the rest of the civilised world on 22nd April. So it's 1800 yen to see an old crap film.

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I must say i enjoyed the movie. Given the movie was made up of many long sequences from the 'handheld camera', it must have been a challenge for the actors and special effects coordinators as there was no way to cut or edit to a different camera angel or retake within a shot without having to go back and shoot the whole sequence again. Clearly it was not actually a 'handheld camera' as the film quality was quite good - sure it was shaky as the actors were running about, but the special effects were well edited into the footage and added to the feel effectively. Many have said they had no idea what the monster was and wanted more background information. Well, in real life you don't get this - it takes time to pull together facts and the movie reflected this. Cleverly done, I think, but maybe not everyones idea of a good movie.

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So, what does this Slusho Corporation headquartered in Tokyo, and somehow involved with the creature, really do?

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