If there is one movie that has come out since Christmas that I am sad to have missed in theaters, it is certainly Cloverfield. I would also put Rambo high on that list, but having just watched Cloverfield on DVD for the first time, I am disappointed that I was limited to a 37″ screen rather than one that is 50 feet high. As well, I feel that while my sound system (the two speakers on my Sharp LCD) is sufficient for watching episodes of “Seinfeld”, it is by no means capable of creating the full-blown experience of Cloverfield. Although, despite the various technological limitations that might have negatively impacted my first run with Clover, the friendly monster that absolutely impales Manhattan, I cannot say that this DVD is anything less than a must-have.
The film, as you know, is shot from the perspective of five young New Yorkers who are caught up in one of the most terrifying situations possible, stuck on Manhattan island as a 30-story monster rips the city apart. Among them is Hud (T.J. Miller), the funny guy who decides to get the entire thing on tape, because you know, “People are gonna want to know how it all went down.” There is also Hud’s best friend Rob (Michael Stahl-David), who went from being 1 night away from flying off to Japan for a new job to spending the night treking through a war zone in search of his forlorn love Beth (Odette Yustman). Their only hope is to get Beth and get out of New York as fast as possible before this mysterious, incredibly dangerous creature turns it all to ash.
From there, you know the story. I do, at least, I do know after seeing the film. In fact, while I found the film to be fantastic, a true American YouTube generation monster movie unlike anything I’ve seen before, I found the film to be one of the least interesting parts of the DVD experience — that is, unless you slow your DVD down to a frame-by-frame rate of play in the final moments of the movie, as Rob and Beth are on the ferris wheel. (Hint: if you look hard enough, you will see proof of something we told you about back on 1-18-08.) But I will let you figure all that out for yourself, no reason to spoil it here. On to the special features…
I began my journey through the special features of the Cloverfield DVD with the “Alternate Endings”, which were touted on the front of the box, so I assumed that they would be something special. They were not, leaving me instantly disappointed. The alternate endings, if I might say without spoiling it all, were almost unnecessary on this DVD — as well, should director Matt Reeves have used either of them, it would not have changed anything about the film. So don’t let yourself get too excited, just yet.
I moved on to the documentary featurettes, of which there are three, and every single one of them unfolded another layer of this deeply interesting production. Shrouded in mystery for its entire production period, Cloverfield became an obsession for just about every internet journalist and fanboy alike — we sweated all the details until the release of the film, and are still to this day curious as to how it all came together. This DVD brings it all to life, completing the Cloverfield experience perfectly with an in-depth documentary feature called “Document 01.18.08: The Making of Cloverfield”, which takes us behind the walls of this top secret production.
There is also a surprisingly thorough feature called “Cloverfield Visual Effects”, in which the masters at Tippett Studios and Double Negative walk us through the immense undertaking that was this film. It was awe-inspiring seeing how much of Cloverfield was done in front of a green screen, and how much work went into creating the monster itself.
As well, there is a third feature called “I Saw It! It’s Alive! It’s Huge!” that is completely dedicated to the creation of the Cloverfield monster. From the inspiration in the mind of producer J.J. Abrams to the 2D design of artist Neville Page to the digital modeling that would eventually bring the monster to life, it is all there. If you are still dying to know all about the Cloverfield monster, this is sure to satisfy your need.
Add to that a few deleted scenes, which aren’t much to write home about, and a blooper reel, and you’ve got yourself one of the best DVD releases of the year so far. I will admit that even I have more to see, having not watched the commentary track with director Matt Reeves, but I was compelled to move forward with my review. I’m certain now that the commentary track will only add to the total experience — which is, to put it simply, a wicked ride.