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-Established 1997-

page added: 5/2/08

2008 (2008) - Bad Robot/Paramount (Paramount)

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DVD reviews by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits


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Film Rating: B+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A/C

Summer 2007: a weird but fan-tastic teaser trailer pops up online and in theaters. It looks like a dorky "friends and lovers" snoozer but then all of a sudden - Bang! a ship explodes and Boom! the Statue of Liberty's head flies off of the movie poster of Escape from New York and onto a New York City street. Awesome. What the hell was that? No one knew. But everyone online at the time wanted to find out.

Slowly but surely, bits and pieces started to filter out. It was a live action Voltron movie. No, it was a movie about a giant lion rampaging the city. No, it's a new take on Godzilla after the Emmerich/Devlin attempt. No, it's a theatrical movie for Lost. Everyone was wrong. It was going to be a Blair Witch-styled look from the ground up of a giant monster attacking New York taken from a handycam, maybe even cell phones and the like. Imagine a monster movie filtered through our post-9/11 paranoia and YouTube fueled technological savvy. It could be cool.

And in January of this year we found out - and Kubrick be praised, it was actually a pretty cool little flick. After all was said and done, if you didn't leave the theater complaining of vertigo, you left trying to figure out this question: How did any of the viral marketing have anything to do with the film? Oh, did I forget to summarize that? Yeah, master manipulator J.J. Abrams took everything he learned baiting Lost fans and did the same thing with Cloverfield over the seven or so months we collectively salivated over any clue as to what the hell was going on in that teaser. What did Slusho have to do with anything? Was the monster Japanese in origin? What did it look like? Why did all the various MySpace pages created for characters follow our world in real time leading up to the release date of the film, yet the movie takes place in a different time of the year? All good questions and all sadly unanswered online, in the film and in various interviews following its release. It would seem Team Abrams was to keep their fanboy catch on the hook a little longer. That fishy smell in the air: it's a sequel... or maybe a prequel. Ah, why not a three-quel?

When the film was released, I saw it at a midnight showing the day of. After walking out, I called Bill and told him, "Find out who is producing the DVD; we have to find out what direction this set is going down. It could either be the greatest special edition of all-time or one of the lamest." Sadly, it turned out somewhere in-between, which is a shame, because Cloverfield on DVD - at least the special edition side - should have been handled much better.

I was really looking forward to this disc, hoping that it would be another puzzle piece in the elaborate mythos created by that media blitz kicked off last summer. And because of that, I've kinda been holding off on reviewing it, because I knew Paramount was going to announce their re-allegiance to Blu-ray, and this would just have to be one of the titles in the first wave and there would have to be better material on it. Well, Paramount DID just announce their dance with Blu. And Cloverfield WAS on the second coming of Paramount Blu list. And the press release for the hi-def version DOES mention some cryptic extras that may make for a better DVD experience. We'll see about that come summer. Until then, we have this.

The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen (at 1.78:1) and looks exactly as it should. Considering the film is basically a "found" digital video camera tape, it looks as good as it did in theaters. Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 and sounds pretty badass for a so-called "found" video tape - but hey, this is Hollywood, we're allowed some contrivances, right? So, if you have a killer sound system, audio-wise Cloverfield will kick you in the nads. Hard.

Hereís where I felt like Paramount missed the boat. The extras focus mainly... really only... on the filming process. Here's where I'm going to lose a lot of you for saying it's a disappointing disc. "But Todd," you'll say "Isn't this a movie, and isn't seeing how it was made the interesting part?" Yes and no. Cloverfield on disc does nothing new in terms of offering a window on how it was made. Frankly, it just does everything everyone does quietly, secretly and smaller. And, yes, we get to see just about everything that went into the making of this film. The disappointing part, for me at least, is that the truly interesting parts about the movie get not a lick of attention.

First up are a pair of documentary making-ofs. Document 01.18.08: The Making of Cloverfield is about a half-hour and follows the film during production from one coast to the next. It's interesting and quite watchable for sure, but itís nothing ground-breaking or anything that will inspire you to head off to film school. Next is Cloverfield Visual Effects, clocking in at about 23 minutes, which looks at the green-screen process (which surprisingly, there is a lot more of than you would expect and for what they did, itís quite impressive). It also features a couple cool shots of the (even to this day) hardly seen monster. Next is I Saw It! It's Alive! It's Huge! which looks at the creation of the monster; yet it really doesn't give much insight outside of things we've already known from following everything online. Frankly, I'm not a huge fan of the monster design (I just don't feel it's iconic enough), but the time and thought that went into creating him (her... it) is impressive and can't be dismissed. You'll also find a goofy gag reel, several Easter eggs that aren't really worth hunting for (like 11 in all), deleted scenes and alternate endings (all of which aren't really enlightening and could have been in the film or out and no one would know) and a commentary with director Matt Reeves. It's an okay commentary in that it's got flow, no real dead spaces and shines a light into the process of sneaking a film into theaters in this Internet age. But again, if you're looking for any story insight, new mythology or clues to anything - forget it. The Best Buy version of the DVD has an exclusive 30-minute bonus disc with T.J Miller's Video Diary (a jokey behind-the-scenes by the guy who plays Hud), but if you don't shop at Best Buy you're out of luck. Also missing from the set are trailers (including the now legendary teaser mentioned above), any sort of archive of ANYTHING seen online, or any mention of the Internet blitz. It's almost like the filmmakers had nothing at all to do with the filmís marketing and didn't really want to draw attention to it. Hmmmm. Maybe Abrams isn't as savvy as we thought?

At the end of the day, Cloverfield isn't a wash on DVD. If you're a fan, it's obviously a must buy. If you have Blu-ray though, I'd say (since itís coming out later this month) wait for that edition because it looks like most everything here will be on there and then some. But as it stands, Cloverfield may be one of those movies that laserdisc was invented for - a movie that will only be a great take home edition once we've had time to play it in our minds, and the filmmakers have had time to tinker with it until its legend is done (look at Blade Runner). I may be disappointed, but maybe I'm supposed to be. I mean, I'll be super pissed if this is a double dip in a year. But if in 5 or 10 years, the edition I was hoping for comes out - that would make me happy and turn this into a fine inaugural release for the film.

Todd Doogan
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