Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog


More on Cloverfield


In my review, written in the wee hours of the morning, I mentioned almost in passing that Cloverfield was the first attempt by Hollywood to deal with the reality of terrorism in America. And that it happened in just the same way that Hollywood dealt with American worries over nuclear war, with a monster movie.

This makes Cloverfield, albeit totally inadvertently, kind of important.

Let's go back a couple of decades to the Cold War era, to 1956 and Invasion of the Body Snatchers . Directed by Don Seigel from a story by Jack Finney, (a heck of a writer by the way. Check out "I'm Scared" if you can find it.) Body Snatchers is all about paranoia. People are being replaced with aliens from pods and the aliens are identical to the original, except that it's just a masquerade. The pod people are taking over hiding under the cover of our own friends and neighbors. While Seigel and Finney both denied any deliberate subtext to the story or the film, the obvious parallels with both creeping communism and raging McCarthyism are too strong to ignore. For a story to be effective, it must touch people, and the only way to do that is to play up the things that move them emotionally, the things they love,and the things they fear. The Cold War was a time of deep paranoia and uncertainty, and Body Snatchers played right into that pre-existing feeling.

While Don Seigel set out just to make a good scary movie, he managed to touch on the worries and fears that preoccupied Americans in the 50s, so it's no wonder the movie was so popular.

Now let's look at J.J.Abrams, and Cloverfield. Like Seigel, Abrams claims to have nothing more on his mind than making a good old fashioned monster movie. Well, like we just saw with Body Snatchers, that doesn't mean that there isn't anything more going on under the surface. When you look at the sheer randomness of Cloverfield, combined with the physical devastation, and the utter helplessness of the military, you can't help but see a comparison to the events of 9/11. In fact, the one shot of the Empire State building collapsing, sending a thick cloud of dust roiling towards the camera, could have come from the shots captured on 9/11.

The threat of future terrorist attacks is too real and too big for our minds to deal with. We either reject the possibility out of hand, (read Democrat), or we downplay it, gloss over it by indulging in meaningless actions to try and prevent it from ever happening again (read Republican). The nasty fact that there are people out there who want to hurt us and destroy us, and that those people may have access to nuclear weaponry is our new national nightmare. Nobody wants to talk about it.

So here comes Abrams who taps into that underlying fear with a movie about a random, inexplicable attack on New York City. Whether it was deliberate or not,he tapped into the underlying fear of our time. The cool thing is that by transferring that fear from the real to the unreal, he makes it easier to deal with. We've seen New York utterly destroyed now. We've seen our worst fears realized, even if only in the movies. By experiencing the worst, even vicariously, we remove some of the fear it causes.

I still don't like the movie,and won't bother seeing it again, despite all the little bits hidden here and there in the film, but I can understand how and why it works for so many people.
Posted by Rich
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Hey Rich, how's that Fred Thompson campaign going? Do you still maitain he is going to be President? hahahahahahahahahaha
Posted by Steve Denton  on  01/22  at  05:02 PM

Hey Steve, in answer to your question, nope.
Posted by rich  on  01/23  at  03:03 PM

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