Recently I found myself watching Godzilla (the craptastic Matthew Broderick version) late at night, 200 stations and this was the one I settled on. Anyway, it wasn't scary, it wasn't even entertaining in that so bad it is good way and the only thing that filled me with any kind of dread was the open-ended final scene that left room for a sequel. So with this fresh on my mind, I skeptically sat down to watch Cloverfield, a film which I had heard lots of excited buzz about from friends, but had skipped in the theaters. Let's just say, this has since pushed any bad residual Godzilla memories out of my mind.
If you haven't seen it, it is basically a monster movie that's cleverly told through a single-hand-held camera of a partygoing guy who captures the chaos of an attack on New York on a personal level. With only glimpses of the dinosaur-like creature, it has a real sense of terror of the unknown. Is the first rumble an earthquake, a terrorist attack, an explosion? Then one terrified and dusty Lizzy Caplan (who was just so awesome in Mean Girls), who got separated from the group, says she saw something horrible eating everyone. Then, well, then it really starts to get good.
The extras are sort of as chaotic as the film. Some of them are beautifully produced, but if you watch enough of them they all start to repeat themselves... insofar as they use the same interview footage with the flicks producer J.J. Abrams and director Matt Reeves. But more on that later. First, can someone explain to me why, in this day and age of the High-def TV's and home theater systems, we really still need our DVDs to come with a warning that says "this film is in widescreen? The black bars at the top and bottom of the screen are normal." Who is still out there who isn't aware of widescreen? I totally digress.
The film has an audio commentary, a nice bonus, but it is director Matt Reeves and it starts out with him telling the same story -- about how J.J. was in a toy store with his son and saw Godzilla and bam, a movie was born -- that I heard on several of the other extras. Then he goes into lengthy discussion of the use of hand held cameras and lighting and well, let's just say that it was a little too techie for my taste. But if you are into that kind of detailed moviemaking stuff, give it a listen. I had already gotten more than my fill watching some of the other extras and had to stop part of the way in.
First up in the special features is "Document 01.18.08: The Making of Cloverfield." This is a slick little behind the scenes making-of segment. Nicely done, sort of goes through the day to day on the set. I totally want to be friends with T.J. Miller (who plays the guy who is "filming" the movie) and Lizzy Caplan. I learned a lot about rats and that rumors fly fast on the internet (shocking, I know). Lots of buzz about Cheese was spread for a while (one of the codenames they used during production.)
Another professionally produced segment called "Cloverfield Visual Effects" follows. It shows how they basically shot on a super small set and with the help of gridlines made movie magic. Has some overlap with the making of doc and the "I Saw It! It's Alive! It's Huge" segment is basically more of the same, but with a bit more info on how they came up with this ugly looking beast.
Then there's "Clover Fun," the bloopers and outtakes. Always my favorite. I especially like the lamppost that just won't cooperate. And they say actors are tough to work with. There are a handful of "Deleted Scenes," complete with director commentary, but they offer nothing especially earthshattering, seems like they used almost everything in the film, with very few leftovers. The two "Alternate Endings" are remarkably similar to what actually aired, though Reeves is quite up on explaining the small nuances between them and what made the final cut.
Some cool stuff is hidden in Easter Egg format. Before I get into that, I've just got to get this out there. J.J. Abrams and company have taken up way too much of my life, getting me to try and figure out the symbolism of the bolded letters in the Alias location title cards, to examining every little detail of Lost until my eyes are exhausted and I've spent three hours on a wild goose chase to figure out what the hell six numbers mean. And damn it, I still want to know what was in Megan's box. Phew. Now that I've gotten that out of my system, Abrams' Bad Robot team wasted more of my Xbox playing time having me hunt down these bonus features.
Thanks to the internet, I was able to find most of them, though a few require standing on your head, rubbing your stomach, reciting the alphabet backwards and giving planting scenese under the first full moon of the year in order to find them. I don't have the energy to explain how to get to them, but these nice people (who clearly had way too much time on their hands) already figured it out. I really recommend the news footage of the earlier collapse on an oil ring off the coast of Connecticut a few weeks prior to the NYC attack. My favorite is the rack 'em and pack 'em montage of the cast being silly. Though I did enjoy finding a scene that showed what the parasite attack looked like without the parasites. Kind of like a commercial for Girls Gone Wild in the way that all the good stuff is blurred out. The scariest thing ever, the ad for SLUSHO beverages. That gave me nightmares.
Oh, and poking around on the internet (which the film encourages by including the official website) lead down a long and winding rabbit hole, where people found screen shots of a King Kong frame that has been inserted in the film, and footage of something crashing into the water at Coney Island. I have a feeling that the extras on this are never ending, which will likely keep me busy until the next Abrams project hits theaters. Beam me up, Scotty.