Sorry, Cloverfield: Love Won't Keep Us Together

Warning: There are spoilers here. Go see it first, then read this.

There are two types of people who will see J.J. Abram’s monster thriller, Cloverfield: those who know and celebrate J. J. Abrams as the creator of Lost and are looking forward to a fun movie instilled also with poignant meaning, and those who just want to see a good monster movie. I found myself in the first camp. Lost is surprisingly meaningful for serialized television drama, concerned constantly with deep human issues such as human responsibility and redemption. Certainly, given an hour and a half of film and an audience’s rapt attention, sans commercials, J.J. Abrams would deliver.

Not exactly. Within the first five minutes, those hopes are all but dashed when we realize that this entire story will center around a bunch of kids who are more beautiful and wealthy than us (I can only speak for myself here, but come on). It’s hard to relate to what the average person would view to be a bunch of spoiled brats, but we feel as if we must, just to enjoy the movie.

And really, we do. The intense moments are some of the most intense I’ve seen while not also being incredibly disturbing. The action is as unlikely as it is frightening, making this one of the more enjoyable horrific experiences I’ve had in a while. The subway scene and the helicopter scene are two parts of the movie in particular which many will remember for weeks after having seen the film. J.J. Abrams, as in Lost, brilliantly ramps up the intensity in a way that truly creeps out his audience, without feeling the need to show us amputated limbs and rolling heads. He is a master at subtle horror.

Abrams also spends a good bit of the movie attempting to instill meaning into this event (beyond the implied theme of the use of media in our culture, which is really something that should have it’s own post. Are you listening, writers?). Unfortunately, the love story we observe throughout the movie seems like ancient history in light of such a horrific event. Rob’s motivation that moves the story along – he’s got to find Beth so she knows he loves her – comes across not just as cliche, but unmoving. More than feel for this guy, we really are just annoyed by him. He risks his own life and the life of his friends for some uncertain sentiment, that ultimately will result in nothing.

And that’s the thing. The film clearly wants us to think it was all worth it in the end. The final words of the protagonists (in both storylines) are meant to drive home the idea that even though they died a horrible violent death, at least they made a connection. At least they fell in love.

But the whole thing just kind of falls flat. Many in the audience groan. It just doesn’t work.

That’s not to say the film was bad. I would gladly see it again. But J.J. Abrams’ attempt at a more redemptive resolution fails. The lead characters may have ultimately found what they were looking for all along. Unfortunately for them, and those watching them, they were looking for love in all the wrong places.

About Richard Clark

Richard H. Clark is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Christ and Pop Culture. He has a Master of Arts in Theology and the Arts from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Louisville, Ky. He is also the managing editor of Gamechurch and a freelance writer for Unwinnable, Paste, and other outlets.
E-mail: clarkrichardh [at] gmail [dot] com.
Twitter: @deadyetliving

  • http://thisblogchoseyou.wordpress.com Bryan

    I myself was in the second-camp, as I explain in my review– I just never got into Lost. The main reason being I missed the first season, and so by the time I sat down to watch an episode I couldn’t understand a thing (this is my fault obviously, and nothing against Lost).

    I dug the insight you had into the film here, though I think I might have enjoyed it a bit more than you. I just wanted to nit-pick a little– technically, Rob didn’t risk the life of his friends. In fact he told them to go when he decided to go back into the city. They wouldn’t. They followed him on their own. :)

  • Rich Clark

    Yeah, I get that, but come on. Did he really expect them to say okay? I mean, hasn’t he ever seen one of these movies before?

  • Geoffrey Seven

    That is one of the crucial but totally unrealistic conceits of this type of movie — that nobody in them seems to have ever seen a horror movie before.

    Like every single vampire movie you see. In the early stages, one of the characters is always, like, “gee, I wonder what those strange marks on his neck could be?”