DVD review: Cloverfield

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Shortly before the giant monster film Cloverfield (reviewed here) was released on DVD, producer J.J. Abrams told Reuters,

"The thing about this movie — probably more than any I think — is that it is better on DVD than in the theater. Because the movie is like a videotape. It lives on your TV. In many ways, it is supposed to be viewed on a (TV) monitor."

In this case, a Hollywood producer isn't just blowing smoke. In some ways, Cloverfield actually is better on DVD than in a movie theater. Abrams makes the point that, since the movie unfolds as camcorder footage recovered after a calamitous monster attack, people would be watching it on TV monitors if it were "real."

DVD viewing also alleviates the the biggest problem many audiences had with Cloverfield: the "shaky-cam" effect. Since the whole film is presented from the POV of a handheld camera, the image frequently jiggles, jolts and lurches — and on a big screen, some moviegoers suffered from symptoms of motion sickness. It's a lot easier to handle on a television. I also found the image resolution to be much crisper on DVD than when I saw it at the theater, although I'm not sure if that represents the superior clarity of the disc, or a flaw in the projection when I saw it. Plus, you get to freeze-frame those terrifying, tantalizing half-glimpses of the monster.

The Cloverfield DVD also lets you test certain rumors and theories. (Spoilers ahead.)

The last scene of Cloverfield depicts the film's ill-fated lovers enjoying a carefree day at Coney Island (a recording that gets accidentally erased six weeks later during a going-away party and monster attack). The scene includes a shot of the ocean, and on-line rumor had it that you could see a UFO, perhaps containing the monster itself, crashing into the water. Upon examination, I could definitely some kind of object in the background, but it seemed completely immobile, and didn't support the "UFO" theory as far as I could tell.

After the closing credits (featuring Michael Giacchino's wonderful score "Roar!"), you can hear a blast of static and some murmured words. I listened to it several times and still find it unintelligible, although rumor has it that the voice is saying "It's still alive." I cannot confirm this.

The DVD includes two "alternate endings." At the risk of giving too much away, I'll say that they only involve alternate Coney Island flashbacks, and offer no monster-related information.

One of the making-of extras offers an interesting bit of trivia, however. Director Matt Reeves and the various monster designers and writers say that the Cloverfield monster is meant to be a newly-hatched creature and is responding with fear and confusion to its surroundings. (Presumably that invalidates the theory that the spidery, dog-sized creatures it sloughs off are "monster babies.") I'd probably never guess that from watching Cloverfield, since the monster comes across as such a wrathful marauder.

I didn't catch any hints about the nature of a potential Cloverfield sequel, but did note that Jessica Lucas (in the above photo at the left) apparently survives the film, and I wouldn't object if a follow-up film involved her. I'm just saying.

(Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

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