The trailer for this first hit as a warm-up for "Transformers". It gave the implication that there would be some massive robot going ape crazy on New York City. That was because the only thing you saw after massive damage to the Statue of Liberty was a logo which read "Bad Robot". We would come to find out later that the behemoth was clearly not a robot. That ambiguity created a mystique that would help to make "Cloverfield" a classic.
We know now that Bad Robot was just the name of the production company. This creature was as far from away from a robot that you could get. There's not even an accurate way to effectively describe what the gigantic monster was. Suffice to say that it is unlike anything you have seen before. It amounted to a combination of about five or six creatures from other horror flicks with they hybrid being a vessel of massive destruction.
"Cloverfield" is the first film since "The Blair Witch Project" to employ the handheld camera perspective where we see the personal account of "survivors" that witnessed the event. What such a vantage point does is infuses a touch of realism into an otherwise outrageous situation. The chances of a monster 40-stories high attacking a major city is probably pretty unlikely. However, when it's shot in a reality-show format, it adds just a little touch of plausibility.
The concept of having this movie be a series of assembled footage is why it works so well. It allows us to connect with the characters in the first 20 minutes before all hell breaks loose. So when the monster does hit, we get to experience everything first hand while at the same time caring about the well-being of the people we have just met. Not every action film could pull something like this off, but "Cloverfield" does so masterfully.
As great as this technique is, it is hampered by the one side thought that occurred to me during "Blair Witch Project" as well. While all these horrible things are going on around them, how do they have the wherewithal to continue to film? And trust me, there are some INTENSE scenes in "Cloverfield" where any normal person would have dropped the camera in an instant. Fortunately, the action of the film causes you to overlook that aspect.
One side note that this flick made me realize: New York/Manhattan just cannot seem to catch a break. That's not even taking into consideration the real life tragedies of 9/11. It seems like every other disaster film takes place in the Big Apple. Every version of "King Kong" started the trend then you get others like most of the "Godzilla" movies, "Independence Day" and even "Armageddon" following suit. It must be all those skyscrapers that just make it too irresistible to pass up for wreaking havoc.
This Bad Robot production company made a name for themselves very quickly. They dropped this "Cloverfield" smash and would later give us my pick for the 2009's movie of the year, "Star Trek". For a Bad Robot, they are doing pretty dang good.