Please pardon my tired tease of Far East consonant pronunciation woes, but I just couldn’t help it. There is a point to it, however – a tease of another sort. We have a mystery to play with prior to the weekend, and it involves a viral marketing campaign that has been finding its way around the internets for several months now.
What could it be terrorizing Manhattan Island in J. J. Abrams’ upcoming horror movie, Cloverfield? The co-creator and executive producer of TV phenomenon “Lost” has tapped into the tested phenomenon of “mockumentary horror” and the lasting fear of terrorist threats on American soil (New York City’s barely had to time to catch its breath) for his latest offering. The powerful image of Lady Liberty’s head skipping down Fifth Avenue as if thrown by a giant, petulant toddler said at once, “Doesn’t this piss you off?!” and “If they can do it in Planet of the Apes and Escape from New York why can’t I?” Shrewd youtubery and image appropriation aside, the predominate effect of…um, the effect…forces us to ask one lasting question, “just how fucking big is this thing?”. That’s the part I like. Only, I remember liking it before.
Like millions of others, Abrams sucked me into his series “Lost” with clever teasers: a realistic plane crash, a mysterious island, huge monsters, even a secret code. Working the final five minutes of every episode like a master serial huckster, he left us with not an answer, but yet another question, leading us deeper and deeper into a gooey web of mystery that promised big payoffs, and for me, never delivered. Half way into the second season, I was through waiting. I’ve been told the third season was great, that it had finally figured out where it was going, but even if that monster on the island turned out to be King Kong and Mothra’s love child with the head of Ari Fleischer, I still don’t give a shit. At this point, I’m numb from all the pointless yelling substituting for intense conflict, and cryptic promises substituting for plot points. You got me again, J. J. Only this time, you weren’t all that “Dyn-o-mite!”
So what are we to expect with his latest incarnation? I mean, have a look again at the freeze frame from the trailer I posted above. What is that? I think I see a big, humanoid face with a mohawk, actually. Abrams has said that he got the idea for the monster while visiting a toy store in Japan with his son. Riiight. So, is it Big Toy destroys Big Apple? That’s at least “out there” and ambitious to an extent. If it’s a Godzilla type monster, then…okay, the last attempt certainly left the door open for someone to do it right. Only, Godzilla is pure schlock fantasy. The Japanese can make that stuff work, somehow. But here, Abrams seems to be playing it straight, which suggests to me that any tension he’s created by the mockumentary style he’s also borrowing will be rendered silly to the extreme. Personally, I never really cottoned to the big dinosaur that’s not really a dinosaur, but I can respect that others have. However, boasting a very low budget by sci-fi blockbuster standards (estimated at $30 million), are we meant only to marvel at his ability to capture the thrill of running aimlessly through the chaotic Manhattan streets never knowing when we’ll be crushed, or is it yet another sci-fi element rehash better packaged then presented? Sorry, but I smell snake oil. Or is that lizard pee. See, I just don’t know.
And that’s my problem with Abrams. He seems to think the promise of premise is worth 90% of the investment. Kind of like a magician. Unfortunately, the only thing disappearing is my patience. I don’t mean to bait his fans out there, as I’m sure there are plenty with Taking Care of Business, Regarding Henry, Forever Young, What About Brian, and Six Degrees in their DVD library. But outside of “Alias”, Mission: Impossible 3 and Armageddon, I can’t much see why he calls his production company “Bad Robot”. If he’s talking about the promise of something fantastic and cool that simply sucks up batteries without doing a whole hell of a lot but make noise, then I guess the name fits and he’s simply done away with the fine print on his contract with the audience.
Hey, I understand that my opinion means very little against one who has made Hollywood plenty of scratch. I mean, who am I to argue with a talent who has parlayed his recent small screen success into a cherry gig directing the upcoming 11th Star Trek feature?
No one, that’s who. Still, here’s hoping he did his research this time.