Shockingly, my wife and I were able to sneak out of the house last night and actually attend a movie in a real-live theater (or, as the locals call it, a "multi-plex.") Did we see There Will Be Blood by my all-time favorite director Paul Thomas Anderson? No. Did we see Juno, featuring the great Michael Cera and the possibly even greater Ellen Page (have you SEEN Hard Candy? Her performance is amazing)? No.
We saw Cloverfield, as you have probably figured out by the title of this post.
And, since you are an astute reader, you can probably also figure out that I liked it.
I did like it. I liked it quite a bit. And before I discuss it further, let me say that Cloverfield's in very good company. As soon as the credits started to roll, the woman behind us (and there were only about six people in the whole theater) said, loudly, "that was the WORST movie I've ever seen!" I've heard that exact expression said in that tone only twice before. Once, at the end of Pulp Fiction during its opening weekend. And once, after opening night of Anchorman. (The guy who said it about Anchorman also added, "it wasn't funny AT ALL.")
So, the fact that Cloverfield is in the same strange company as Pulp Fiction and Anchorman should tell you that its doing something right.
Cloverfield is what the War of the Worlds remake wanted to be, but Spielberg didn't have the balls to pull it off. Spielberg went with sentimentality (the entire family is reunited at the end? Really? You're going to go with that, after everything you've set up in the rest of the movie?) and with faux heroism (all of a sudden, Tom Cruise the "regular guy" who has a transmission on his kitchen table becomes an action hero and helps figure out how the aliens can be defeated? Really?), while Cloverfield director Matt Reeves went with nihilism (you think the journey into mid-town was about love? It was about selfishness and misguided attempts at doing what's right. You want everyone to live happily ever after? Screw you!) And that second approach makes for a much better monster movie.
While Spielberg is incapable of making a monster movie without a few moments where the jaunty music of John Williams reassures the audience that everything will be all right (see Jaws and Jurassic Park for extra-jauntiness), Matt Reeves abandons a musical score completely (and appropriately), leaving the screeching and the screaming and the anxious panting to amplify the emotion which, throughout the vast majority of the running time, is intense.
Are there problems with the movie? Probably. Especially if you're looking to apply some kind of rational logic to the movements of the monster (the creature always seems to be right in front of where the protagonists want to go, except when the creature is RIGHT BEHIND THEM--gasp!), but really, it's a monster movie and as such, it has one job, and that is to thrill and exhilarate and make you feel the threat of the creature. Cloverfield does that as well as any movie ever made, and I liked it.
So, take that old lady sitting behind us. Go rent Daddy Day Camp or something. Obviously, Cloverfield is too much for you to handle.